How safe is it to shop on the internet?

Opio asks: How safe are internet credit-card transactions? What are the safeguards to prevent possible fraud?

Maya replies: This is a good question because not many people realise that you have very little protection when using your credit card online with overseas vendors.

According to FNB, card holders can raise disputes relating to transactions on their cards and the bank will investigate and seek to recover funds. However, the bank warns that this process is practically impossible when interacting with non-reputable overseas vendors and when the customer has intentionally released their card details. So, unfortunately, the onus is on you to make sure you are dealing with a reputable vendor.

The issue is that customers have no idea how secure the environment is at the vendor’s offices and whether it has systems in place to protect your information.

Once a vendor has your card account number, the expiry date and the three digit code at the back of your card, it can proceed to perform a “card not present” transaction/s.

It is probably best to deal only with well-known retailers. If you are dealing with a new retailer that is not well known, initially pay with an electronic transfer until you are comfortable the retailer above board. It is also important that the retailer has put in safety checks to secure your information.

Locally, merchants would be provided with an online system through their bank so it is a more secure platform, but you may not have the same level of security when dealing with an unknown vendor abroad.

When you are transacting you need check the site for the following:

  • “http” in the recipient’s web address to make sure it is not a spoof site (a site that is created to mimic a genuine site).
  • A padlock icon. Some sites also show which security feature they use, like Thawte or Verisign.
  • Many e-commerce retailers have signed up with “Verified By Visa” or Mastercard Securecode. If they have this logo it means that they have a secure payments system. These logos usually appear on the payment page.
  • A site should never store your credit card details, so you need to input them every time you shop.

FNB says a preferable and safer method of payment to overseas vendors that may not be well known — such as a bed-and-breakfast booking, for example — is via a PayPal account. In this case the customer does not disclose his/her card or bank account details. You do, however, need to have an FNB account.

An interesting development is that you can no longer use your credit card to pay for online gambling with companies outside of South Africa’s boarders. The banks are required by the authorities to monitor these activities and report on them.

Read more news, blogs, tips and Q&As in our Smart Money section. Post questions on the site for independent and researched information.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Maya Fisher French
Guest Author

Related stories

Digital banking offers an entry point to the fourth industrial revolution

Digital and mobile offerings have the potential to disrupt the banking industry in South Africa

Banks bungle sale of houses

Banks aren’t following procedure in selling the primary dwellings of people whose properties are in foreclosure. But changes to the rules brings hope

How to keep central banks independent

Some observers say central banks can best mitigate risks to their independence by returning to the narrow price-stability mandate

The battle of the banks

Several new entrants will spark a war of attrition rather than a full-frontal assault and customers will be the winners

Customers to benefit from disruption in retail banking, says FNB

The bank's vision is to be a trusted money manager

‘Judgment day’ looms for Australia’s scandal-hit banks

A decade ago the sector was lauded for emerging unscathed from the global financial crisis and avoiding the risky investments that doomed their peers

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Why anti-corruption campaigns are bad for democracy

Such campaigns can draw attention to the widespread presence of the very behaviour they are trying to stamp out — and subconsciously encourage people to view it as appropriate

Tax, wage bill, debt, pandemic: Mboweni’s tightrope budget policy statement

The finance minister has to close the jaws of the hippo and he’s likely to do this by tightening the country’s belt, again.

SA justice delays extradition of paedophile to UK

Efforts to bring Lee Nigel Tucker to justice have spanned 16 years and his alleged victims have waited for 30 years

Former state security minister Bongo back in court

Bongo and his co-accused will appear in the Nelspruit magistrate’s court in Mpumalanga over charges of fraud, corruption and theft

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday