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Rather than paying with cash or a check, consumers make payments with credit cards all the time. You’ve probably even gotten so used to paying with credit cards that you send your number over the phone, in the mail, by fax, or online without even thinking too much about it.
Even though consumer comfort levels of paying by credit card have gone up, the risks associated with hacking and identity theft have not gone down. If anything, the thieves only get more sophisticated each year.
Before you send your credit card information over the Internet, through the mail, or by fax, you should stop for a minute to think about how that information is going to travel to its destination. Are there places along the way that the information could be susceptible to theft?
Obviously, you don’t want to stop making payments with your credit card because it is easy and certainly safer than cash. Plus, many merchants won’t accept a personal check. Therefore, you should know the risks of sending your credit card information down a given route and how you can minimize those risks.
Sending Credit Card Information
Send by Email
There are two ways to send information through email. One way is through what is known as secured email. These types of messages are encrypted before they are sent. The message and the encryption key stay encrypted until they reach the sender. This reduces the risk of being intercepted by hackers. If you have secured email, the risk associated with sending your credit card number is fairly low.
Most people have a regular, unsecured email account. This doesn’t mean your email account is not protected by a password. It means the information you send is not encrypted. Email providers such as Google and Yahoo, however, have started encrypting user emails. So, you may want to consider one of these email providers. If you don’t have encrypted email, the risk can be quite high. Email is the primary tool hackers use to get personal identification data through hacking, spoofing, and eavesdropping.
Send by Fax
Sending credit card information through fax does not pose much of a risk from hackers. When data gets faxed over the telephone lines, even tapping the phone lines will not yield anything. You don’t need to worry much about your credit card information being intercepted while in transit. When sending personal information of any kind by fax, the biggest concern is with who is receiving the information on the other end.
It’s possible that a dishonest co-worker could be standing next to the machine when your message comes in and takes your credit card information or other personal identification. When sending information by fax, it is best to make sure the recipient is standing next to the machine waiting for its arrival. Also, remind them to pick up and destroy any confirmation pages that may print along with the fax.
Send by Text
Sending credit card information by text message is considered to pose very little risk of interception by hackers. Identity thieves don’t typically try to sniff text messages for social security or credit card numbers.
The biggest risk with sending a credit card number by text message is your number is sitting on the recipient’s phone. Someone else could pick up or steal the phone and then also get your credit card information along with the phone. You can reduce this risk by asking the recipient to delete the text after reading it.
Send by Postal Mail
The biggest risk for credit card information being stolen by postal mail is when it is waiting to get picked up by the Postal Service and after it has been delivered. For the most part, mail is considered to be pretty safe once it is in the hands of the Postal Service.
The sorting and delivery process is fairly secure, and there are hefty federal penalties for anyone who intercepts mail before it gets to the intended recipient. Just be sure not to leave mail with personal identification or account information in your mailbox to get picked up by your delivery person. Take these to the post office yourself.
You can also reduce your risk by taking a couple of extra precautions. Don’t send private information over public Wi-Fi networks (such as those in a mall or coffee shop). These places are a prime target area for hackers looking to steal information. You can also break your credit card information up into several email messages. Break the number into four separate emails, and separate the expiration date and billing address as well.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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