Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre recently identified more than 4,000 online retailers who had their payment systems hacked in a manner that enabled the hackers to steal credit card and debit card information used by unwary online shoppers. Most of the hacked retailers were small and medium sized businesses and all of them had not updated their card processing software with already issued security patches. The particular software that was hacked was an e-commerce platform called Magento which is used not only in the United Kingdom, but also extensively in the United States as well as Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil and Italy. With online shopping expected to be extensive during the holiday season it is critical that online merchants make sure that they install security updates as soon as they become available.
But what should we as shoppers do?
As a consumer, you can never be sure as to whether the site where you are doing your online shopping is using software that is vulnerable to being hacked so the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to use your credit card rather than your debit card for online shopping. The holder of a credit card used for fraudulent purposes cannot be assessed more than $50 for such use and most credit card companies charge nothing. However, the potential liability of a person whose debit card has been compromised can reach his or her entire bank account tied to the card if the card owner does not report the crime promptly and even if the card owner does report the theft promptly, the debit card owner’s access to his or her own bank account is frozen while the bank investigates the crime. While using your chip credit card in a brick and mortar store will provide you with protection even if the store’s card processing equipment is hacked, the chip cannot be used for online purchases so it is critical that you use your credit card for purchases rather than your debit card.
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