Monday, February 8, 2010

Uneasy Using Your Credit Card Online?

Feel uneasy using your credit card online to make a purchase? Many consumers do. According to a study by the Identity Theft Resource Center, 85 percent of respondents expressed significant concern about the safety of sending information over the internet.But if there is a purchase you want to make online, what choice do you have but to use a credit card?

There are options. One of them may go by several different names, but it is a virtual, disposable credit card number. Your bank or credit card issuer may offer software for you to download which will generate the credit card number. Or they may have you go to your online account with them each time for a temporary number. While details vary according to the source of the card, it may allow you to set a dollar amount of available credit and an expiration date. Once used with a particular merchant, any leftover available credit can only be used with that same merchant. The card can be used for a purchase online, over the phone, or by mail. The merchant will never know it is any different from a normal credit card transaction.

One limitation is that it cannot be used for an “in-person” transaction, however, as there is no actual credit card. It would not be appropriate for charging airline or theater tickets where you will be required to produce the card when you pick up the tickets.

Major credit card issuers offering this option include Bank of America, Citibank, and Discover.

For any online transaction, be sure that you are on a secure website. Look at the address bar for the website to see if it starts with “https”. In addition, do you see a yellow padlock? These are both signs of a secure web site. You can also check with your browser to see what other features are offered to protect your privacy. If you are using Internet Explorer 8, for example, the address bar turns green when on a secure site and you can view the certificate by clicking on the green bar with the yellow padlock in it.

Should there be an unauthorized use of your credit card, your liability for is limited to $50 per card. If the card is stolen and reported prior to its use, there is zero liability. Your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may cover the $50 with no deductible.

Report any unauthorized charges to your credit card issuer immediately. Include your name and account number and an explanation of why you believe the charge is incorrect. Along with this, send them a copy of your billing statement with the disputed charges highlighted. Do not send this to the same address as your payment, but to the address creditor has designated for handling billing errors and unauthorized use. That address should be located on your billing statement. You must still pay the undisputed portion of the bill.

The bottom line is always be vigilant when filling in any personal information online.

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