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Kenneth Van Wyk: 'Tis the season to shop with care

Kenneth van Wyk | Dec. 4, 2012
With online holiday shopping on the rise, and mobile-device shopping coming into its own, the need to be aware of the necessary security precautions has grown.

* If you use a vendor app on a mobile device to shop, you should probably spend a few minutes doing some static and dynamic analysis of the app to see for yourself whether your information is being adequately protected. I provided some tips for doing just that in my May and June 2012 columns.

If you do run into problems with any of your payment cards, it's likely you'll get a phone call and/or email from your payment provider. Don't ignore those calls! Respond to them quickly and answer their questions. (Of course, be sure you're really talking to your payment card vendor first.)

After my first defrauded credit card, I signed up for a service in which my provider sends me a text message asking for verification of any questionable transactions. I reply with a yes or no, and the transaction is handled accordingly. Of course, this service has to happen over a mobile number that is previously configured with the payment card company, but many card vendors will do that sort of thing for customers upon request. (And if I'm out of the country, I incur a cost for the text messages, but it's worth it to me.)

If it turns out your card has been attacked, you'll want to quickly get to all the merchants that have your card information stored in their databases -- especially any that have recurring charges to your account. By keeping a log of all of those merchants, you'll be able to quickly update things. While you're doing that, consider it a good opportunity to also change your password with all those merchant websites (or mobile apps).

There are certainly plenty of things that consumers can do to make their online shopping reasonably secure. It may sound like a lot of inconvenience to do things such as setting up a separate password for each site, but you really won't regret getting your online payments in clean working order.

When my card was attacked a second time, I was able to go clean things up in just a few minutes, in large part because I took my own advice and kept a meticulous log of all my online payment activity. A little bit of carefully applied paranoia can go a long way.

Happy holidays.


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