I had to chuckle recently. A potential Plus Edition subscriber sent me an e-mail message asking if he could call me on the telephone to give me his credit card information for a subscription to the Plus Edition newsletter. I replied "Certainly" and I sent along my phone numbers. However, I also asked "Why won't you use the online signup form?" He replied, "I don't want to enter my credit card information on the web. I am afraid it will get stolen."
Maybe it is time to give an introductory course in credit card safety.
I think I am qualified as I spent three years managing the customer service department of a company whose sole offering was providing credit card services to online merchants. I spent hours every day helping our customers install credit card processing software on their web servers and also educating the same merchants on the details of online credit card processing.
Apparently my recent e-mail correspondent did not understand or perhaps didn't even know about SSL encryption, which is required for use on online credit card transactions. He apparently did not know that his credit card information would be encrypted on his computer before being sent across the Internet. He would be using the same security technology that banks, stock brokerages, the Federal Reserve System, and others use to move billions of dollars every day. Use of SSL technology and credit cards is even safer than using cash or written checks. In short, there is nothing safer.
Next, did my would-be subscriber guess what happened when he called me and gave me the credit card numbers? He probably didn't realize that I would open a web browser and make an encrypted connection to the newsletter's web site and enter the information online for him. (Gasp!) Yes, his credit card information would move across the Internet, using the same security technology that he already had on his own computer.
Next, I suspect he doesn't understand what happened last week when he used his credit card at a gas station or at a restaurant, a convenience store, the barbershop, or the florist. Each of those companies gathered his personal information, including his credit card number. Perhaps they swiped his credit card automatically using a small device attached the cash register. What happened next? You guessed it! The restaurant's or store's computer immediately sent the credit card information across the same Internet that you and I use. His credit card information was sent to a credit card clearinghouse, using the same security technology that we all have installed in our web browsers.
Large businesses, such as major department stores, usually have their own private networks that do not use the general-purpose Internet. Almost all smaller merchants, including restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, barber shops, florists, muffler shops, dry cleaning services and others use the same Internet that you and I use every day. They use the same security technology that is in all web browsers to safely send credit card information across the Internet.
If you have already used your credit card several times in person at various restaurants, stores, gas stations, or other merchants, your credit card information has already traveled across the Internet multiple times, even if you do not own a computer! Such transactions are safe, secure, and are trusted by security experts everywhere.
The myth that "credit cards are not safe for use on the web" continues to linger, despite the education efforts of credit card companies everywhere. It's time to stamp out this fictitious "urban legend."
For more information, look at:
VISA's security statement at http://tinyurl.com/ygpocm. Here is an excerpt:
"Use your Visa card to shop online, in a store, or anywhere, and you're protected from unauthorized use of your card or account information. With Visa's Zero Liability policy*, your liability for unauthorized transactions is $0-you pay nothing."
MasterCard's security statement at http://www.mastercard.com/us/personal/en/securityandbasics/peaceofmind.html. Here is an excerpt:
"Your MasterCard® card is protected from fraud and unauthorized charges in ways that are not available with other forms of payment. As a MasterCard cardholder, you are not responsible for unauthorized purchases charged to your account. The MasterCard Zero Liability coverage extends to purchases made in a store, over the telephone, or on the Web.'
American Express' security statement at http://tinyurl.com/8m4o5. Here is an excerpt:
"Our Fraud Protection Guarantee means you won't be held responsible for any fraudulent charges when you use your American Express Card. No fine print, no deductible-just pure protection so you can shop with confidence anywhere online or off."
Discover Card's security statement at http://www.discovercard.com/discover/data/faq/online_security.shtml. Here is an excerpt:
"Our $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee ensures that you're never responsible for unauthorized usage of your Discover Card."
All the major credit card companies guarantee that you will never lose a penny in case of online or offline fraud or theft. That's right: they GUARANTEE your credit card safety. Next, your credit card information has already moved across the Internet multiple times, even if you do not own a computer.
Let's compare this to sending a check in the mail. Unlike credit cards, most checks are not protected from fraud or unauthorized use. If the check you send gets stolen in the mail and deposited into some crook's bank account, you lose the money! Next, ask anyone at the post office about stolen checks. The truth is that hundreds of checks get stolen from mailboxes every day.
If you are worried about the safety of paying bills, make sure that you always pay bills with a credit card or via a "pay your bills online" system, never with a paper check. Again, credit cards are protected from fraud and unauthorized use while paper checks usually are not. It makes no difference whether you use a credit card in person or online, the end result is the same: your credit card information will always be transferred online to the credit card companies in a safe and secure manner that is protected from thieves and rip-off artists. The credit card companies guarantee your transaction is safe from thieves and rip-off artists.
Now, can we kill this myth about the online use of credit cards?