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Credit Card Security and The Internet

Computer Tips Index

by
Former Chair, IEEE Computer Society, Kansas City Chapter

Are you taking an unreasonable risk when you use your credit card to shop over the Internet? The answer is a resounding NO!  The big fear people have is some hacker will intercept their credit card data and ruin their credit with an unauthorized shopping spree. Let me ask you, do you ever use your credit card over the phone, where the transaction is not encrypted and can be intercepted with a cordless or cellular phone?

Sure you do. And I'm willing to bet you entrust your unencrypted credit card information to the U.S. Postal Service when you do mail order. You probably shop at stores, hotels, and restaurants that don't secure that information. Not that you are a bad person for doing this--I do the very same things. I'm just pointing out that you won't be lowering your standards to shop via secured server.

Sure, this is a fairly new way to shop, and when something is new, we aren't always comfortable with it (unless it's a new Ferrari, right?).


So, what makes a server secure?

First of all, a secure ordering system uses a form script that encodes the credit card information right at your computer. The resulting gobbledygook then goes out over the Internet via a path nobody knows about ahead of time, and on to the server that will process your order.

A typical secure server program runs $5,000 or more, and is a booger to set up. Then there's a small fortune for the hardware and other items to make it all work. Companies that make that kind of investment employ administrative and other measures to ensure that they get their money's worth and don't endanger their reputation of having a secure ordering system. They have a vested interest in protecting your credit card information. Mindconnection is one of those companies!

Last year, consumers lost several million dollars because of cellular phone fraud. Last year, just like every year, consumers did not lose a single penny due to fraudulent use of a credit card over the Internet. If the proof is in the pudding, this stuff is delicious!

How can you test a server to know it is secure?

There are a couple of ways--and the merchant has no control over how you can tell.

One way is to check the online ordering form for a secure server symbol. In Microsoft's Explorer, it will be a tiny padlock at the bottom toward the right-hand corner of the IE window. Look closely at this lock.

If it's open, you don't have a secure server. If it's closed, you do. In Netscape's browsers, you get a little key on the bottom and toward the left-hand corner (It figures--the two big browser companies use exactly opposite symbols!). The key will appear solid and be on a blue background. If that's not what you have, don't put your credit card information on that page.

The other way: At Mindconnection, we use Secure Servers with Secure Socket Layer (SSL) transmission. This enables us to encrypt any data sent to our web servers, and in turn our servers will encrypt any data sent back to your web browser.

When placing an order, you will notice that on the page where you enter your personal information, the URL will change from http to https. This indicates that you are on a secured page. The SSL Digital ID is certified by Version. This means you can safely enter your entire credit card number when prompted by our online purchasing system and it cannot be read in transit.


The benefits of ordering online


Benefits For the Shopper

  • Shop anytime of day or night 24 hours day 7 days a week, virtual stores never close!
  • No contending with traffic, other shoppers, parking, limited store hours, lines.
  • Compare products easily, from a single site.
  • Customer assistance available only when you choose - via phone, e-mail or fax.
  • No lugging around heavy packages-they're shipped right to your home or office.
  • Reduced operating costs allow for competitive pricing.
  • Access the most up-to-date product information and pricing with the click of a mouse.
  • Eliminate fraudulent use of your credit card by sales personnel (the most common cause of credit card fraud with retail transactions).
  • Research & sample related products automatically, or if desired just go directly to the specific product of choice.
  • Perform high-powered shopping in your bunny slippers, if you so desire.


Purchasing by Minors

It is our policy not to sell any product to minors. Most sites do not sell to minors, because of provisions in contract law. If you are under the age of 18 and wish to buy, you should get a parent or legal guardian to make a purchase for you.

 

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This material, copyright Mindconnection. Don't make all of your communication electronic. Hug somebody!