Picture this: you’ve just seen a great collection item on an online auction site and you want to place your bid. What if you actually get it at a cool price? That would be fantastic. But is it wise to trust an online auction website with your credit card details to make the payment? If you have even the slightest fear of internet security scams, than you shouldn’t trust just any online seller with your financial data. Why not use a third-party payment service instead? You’ve probably heard of PayPal, Escrow or Amazon.com Payments, but these are just a few examples.
What are third-party payment services?
Third-party payment services have become very popular among web users who make transactions online, from shopping and paying for services, to sending money to family and making donations. And for good reason. It’s fast, easy, and safe – you just create an online account with the company providing the payment service, transfer money to that account, and then make secure payments from the account without revealing your credit card details directly to anyone.
Now, you’d think that thanks to third-party payment services you’re off the phishermen’s hook. Well, think again. History demonstrates that cybercrooks love exploiting popular online services. But how can you avoid falling victim to one of their internet security scams that exploit third-party payment services?
Here are 6 smart practices for using them safely:
- 1. First off, make sure the third-party payment service you want to use doesn’t pose any internet security risks. Do your research before creating an account with them, to make sure the payment service is legitimate and secure:
- look for reviews from other users and learn about their experiences with the service in question.
- read their privacy policies carefully and look for accredited business/privacy seals from TRUSTe or Better Business Bureau (BBB) Online on the official site of the service. If you see one of these approval seals, click to see if it directs you to the site of the institution that created it. If it doesn’t link to the respective site, just avoid the service altogether – it’s not trustworthy and your internet security might be at risk.
- look for security encryption signs on the service website: the web address has to include https:// ("s" stands for secure) and a closed padlock beside it.
By taking all these steps you make sure you don’t fall for fake payment services and become victim to online fraud or other internet security scams.
- 2. You’ve decided which payment service to go for and you have to create an account with them. Make sure the password you choose is strong enough to avoid any account hacks – make it at least 8 characters long and include symbols, upper and lower case letters and numbers.
- 3. Now, you want to make an online purchase. Check if the seller is a member of the payment service/accepts payments through it. If it does, look for the seller’s rating (some services allow such ratings). If the seller is not a member, but you want to purchase the product anyway by revealing your credit card details, make sure the seller is trustworthy and their site is legitimate and secure – apply the internet security rules from point #1.
- 4. If you receive an e-mail from a third-party payment service – the one you use or any other –asking you to confirm your password and/or credit card data, or provide your bank account details in order for them to forward you a money transfer, ignore it! It most probably is a phishing scam. Cybercrooks often exploit the names of popular payment services like PayPal, to make phishing e-mails look authentic. However, bear in mind that legit third-party payment services would never ask you for credit and debit card numbers, bank account numbers, driver's licence and passwords in an e-mail. To avoid such internet security scams, aside from ignoring suspicious looking e-mails, you may also consider installing an effective Spamfilter, like the one included in BullGuard Internet Security 12 to clean out annoying and malicious e-mails.
- 5. Do not use third-party payment services and do not access your bank accounts from WiFi networks in coffee shops, airports or other public places. They are often unsecured and left open for anyone to use them. So hackers may use them to intercept your transactions, redirect the transfers to their accounts or steal your banking details.
- 6. The World Wide Web offers a sea of advantages and opportunities to make your life easier. But with all the goodies come the baddies as well – internet security threats like Trojans. This type of malware can sneak onto your computer and manipulate your browser to show up a fake login page to your payment service/ bank account in man-in-the-browser attacks. So before you know it, cybercrooks get hold of your financial data and make transfers from your accounts. PayPal has been the target of such attacks.
The gravity of the threat calls for installing proper antivirus protection such as the one provided by BullGuard’s internet security software. Its proactive antivirus engine detects and removes even the newest forms of Trojans, spyware and other malware, while its Antiphishing feature keeps you safe from phishing attempts.