Options of online payments
In order to minimise risks regarding online payments and avoid to have to give away data too often, consumers should consider to use different payment options depending on the individual situation.
To browse the Internet, compare offers and be able to order the fitting product right away - these are certain advantages of online shopping.
It is important to be careful when shopping online. Handle personal data with care - don't just type them in whenever requested, but take a look at who is requesting them. Not only small webshops, but also well-known and professional traders can make mistakes. A small security gap can lead to massive loss of data.
Shop anonymously, reduce damage
By now, various options of online payments exist. Some of them enable users to reduce possible damages or to shop anonymously. Depending on the personal perception of security and the particular situation, but also on acceptance and distribution of the respective payment system, consumers should vary their way of paying online. This makes it easier to avoid traps and to reduce consequences.
Which online payment options do exist?
The following are some of the most popular and accepted payment options:
- Credit card
- Online transfer
Especially MasterCard and Visa are highly accepted by most webshops. The advantage is that the provider is liable in case of abuse. Nevertheless, depending on the type of credit card, high costs may occur:
Banks who offer classic credit cards, connected to a bank account, usually charge an annual fee. Those cards have a monthly transaction limit that is set back every month after the cards holder paid the bill. In order to avoid that someone misuses the card, only safe transactions should be made with it.
Prepaid credit cards are not completely anonymous, but the risk of loss is limited to the amount charged on the card. Small payments can cause expensive one-off fees; (dis-)charging can also cost a few euros which sums up over time.
Internet credit cards like cash4web (an anonymised MasterCard) or similar cards can be obtained at tobacconists or the Post and enables anonymous online shopping (note: this doesn't apply if you purchased the card online). Disadvantage: More and more traders request a password from their customers (the so called SecureCode of MasterCard or Verified by Visa of Visa) in order to pass the bucket regarding liability in case of unexplained debits back to the customer.
However, to be able to enter a MasterCard SecureCode, the Cash4web card holder must have used his card in the previous six month. He has to state a personal account balance as SecureCode or to registrate to get a one-time password. This puts an end to anonymity.
This card is also obtainable at tobacconists and allows consumers to shop completely anonymously. The card contains a code that has to be filled in during the purchase. This helps avoiding to give away personal data. Disadvantage: If the code doesn't work, the consumer has to send his bank account and address data to paysafecard in order to get the amount charged on the card. Moreover, the bons have to be used within a year, because after twelve months, a fee of two euros per month occurs.
By now, this payment method is not as accepted as the ones mentioned above. The advantage: The transaction is handled by the consumers' bank and personal data like the bank account number or password is not submitted to third parties. Furthermore, no additional cards or accounts are necessary. However, this system is not anonymous and security gaps can occur at the intermediary. An alike system is ClickandBuy, but the transaction is not processed by the bank.
PayPal is an international provider who also acts as an intermediary. Consumers set up an account with their mail address and a password for identification purposes - which is a rather low access barrier and lead to cases of abuse and account blocking in the past. Tricky mail addresses and passwords are therefore mandatory. An advantage of paypal is its international character which is especially useful to consumers who often purchase goods from the US or have revenues in foreign currencies. Those are calculated according to daily rates (but with high charges).
A service of the online giant who also wants to act as an intermediary service provider - purchase anywhere, pay via Amazon. The own data of consumers are not randomly scattered around. On the down side: Amazon knows about the consumers' shopping habits.
Shopping online via mobile devices becomes more and more popular. If consumers make purchases via their mobile phone, tablet, notebook or laptop while being out, they need to consider that their data is being send to the next transmitter mast. This creates an unnecessary security risk as hackers could use the low security of such connections to gain data.
A question of security
Hacked data, viruses, abusive credit card debits or advanced payments that are never followed by a service - with online payments, bad surprises can happen if not handled with care. The following are some precautions that can improve protection:
- Encrypt data: Check if the URL of the website on which you fill in your personal data begins with "https". The "s" stands for encrypted data transfer and should be obligatory for all bank and money transactions. This standard doesn't protect against data spying, which happens on highest level (keyword "NSA"), but should at least protect you against occasional hackers and petty criminals.
- Updaty security software: Make sure to install a security software on your personal computer and mobile devices and update it regularly.
- Limit possible damages: With prepaid cards or e.g. paysafecard, the money on account is limited which means that you can control your risk.
- Restrict dissemination of data: Use (anonym) alternatives to credit card & co., try to avoid scattering your data around.
- Benefit from diversity. Providers offer different options of payments. Use various systems according to the particular situation.
- Limit risks. Remember to only state personal data on encrypted websites ("https"). Limit the risk by using cards with a fixed amount.
- Shop anonymously. More and more intermediary service providers offer to process your payment. This helps avoiding to spread your data. In order to shop completely anonymously, you need to use Internet credit cards or bon cards.