How to Protect Yourself From Online Card Fraud

The service is used by more than 10,000 merchants and has “tens of millions” of cardholder participants, said Sukhmani Dev, senior vice president of digital products, North America, at Mastercard.

Here are some questions and answers about safe practices when shopping online:

The Federal Trade Commission offers these tips: Shop with a credit card online, and never buy anything from online sellers that accept payment only by gift cards, money transfers or cryptocurrency. Such payments are nearly impossible to trace and reverse, and criminals often tell people to use those methods so they can get cash quickly, the commission says.

Vet unfamiliar websites before shopping by searching online for the merchant’s name and the word “complaint” or “scam,” the agency advises, and read the seller’s description of the goods carefully. If the seller offers brand-name goods at steep discounts, the agency said, “they might be fakes.”

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse also recommends making sure the website shows a tiny lock icon, or https, in the checkout browser, indicating transactions are secure. You can also sign up for alerts from your bank or credit card so you are notified when purchases are made.

“The U.S. consumer really needs to be smart,” said David Mattei, a strategic adviser specializing in payments fraud at Aite-Novarica Group. If major retailers are out of an item, he said, there’s a good chance an online seller you have never heard of doesn’t have it, either. And if a website asks for details like your Social Security number, he said, “that should be a red flag” that the site is not legitimate.

You can, but experts like the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse generally caution against it. That’s because if the card is compromised, funds are taken directly from your bank account. There are consumer protections in place, but it may take time to resolve the issue and in the meantime you may be out the cash.

“It’s a different feeling, to see money gone from your bank account,” said Odysseas Papadimitriou, chief executive of financial website WalletHub.

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