Spending money online can be dangerous if you’re uninformed about the various payment options available to you. You may struggle to understand these dangers with so many different payment options on the market. Below is our guide to the online payment options available to you and their dangers.
The most traditional type of payment option available online is via a debit or credit card. You will find this option available on most websites that take payments for goods or services, but they’re not all created equal.
You should check what type of credit card payment each website you use takes. Some offer payments through services such as Stripe that are more secure than entering your card details into a random website.
You should always check a website’s credibility before entering your credit or debit card details into an unfamiliar site. Unsecured websites can easily steal your card information, and hackers will share it around once it’s sold on the dark web. You’ll need to cancel any cards that become compromised in this way.
To learn more about dark web marketplaces, check out our article on the subject here.
The safest way to pay online with a credit card is to use a reputable financial institution’s disposable card. Most card providers and banks offer disposable card numbers to keep you safe online. That way, if your number is stolen, only the money on your card is at risk.
PayPal is a prevalent form of online payment. Most e-commerce websites offer PayPal payments as the general public tends to trust the company.
Compared to entering your card details into an unfamiliar website, PayPal is incredibly secure. As long as you ensure you’re using a secure connection and the legitimate PayPal website, your payment details will remain secure.
That’s not to say there are no risks at all. Early in 2020, a security team published concerns over PayPal’s authentication system. Hackers could gain access to your PayPal account by using stolen credentials purchased on the dark web.
Klarna is a Swedish banking company that offers online payment services for a variety of e-commerce sites. The primary service Klarna offers is a buffer between the buyer and seller, meaning there are fewer financial risks for both parties.
Klarna offers payment plans that allow consumers to pay in installments rather than all at once.
Although hackers have never breached Klarna, as far as we know, some privacy concerns are surrounding the company. In October 2020, Klarna sent an email newsletter to thousands of people who have never used their services. Right now, Klarna is being investigated by a privacy watchdog to figure out how they obtained people’s information.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are a decentralized form of currency, meaning there is no single bank on which the currency depends. Being decentralized means bitcoin doesn’t have a single point of failure and is less likely to disappear or break.
Bitcoin is heavily encrypted using a lot of power from computers worldwide, meaning it’s challenging to steal bitcoin from another user.
Thanks to bitcoin’s security features, it is a secure payment option you can use. The main problem with bitcoin is that few e-commerce sites accept it as a payment method. Another issue is that your bitcoin wallet itself may be insecure, or if you store your bitcoin at a centralized exchange.
E-commerce giant Amazon offers its own online payment option. Users can employ their Amazon accounts to pay for goods on third-party websites.
If you use Amazon Pay, your information is all in a single place, so your information is only as safe as your Amazon account is. You should ensure you’re using 2FA to protect your Amazon account before deciding to use Amazon Pay.
Samsung offers its own payment service that allows users to pay bills using their phone or smartwatch. This service relies on your Samsung account and a device with NFC enabled to use contactless payment.
You should ensure your Samsung account is as secure as possible. Like many similar services, Samsung Pay is only as safe as you make the account it uses.
A security researcher did discover a potential vulnerability in Samsung Pay in 2016, but it is not known if Samsung fixed the issue or not.
Google Pay is Google’s answer to other digital wallets. Like Samsung’s offering, Google Pay allows the user to pay for goods in the real world using any android enabled device with NFC built-in.
The key factor in the security of using Google Pay is the security of your Google account itself. You should ensure you’re using 2FA on your account. You can follow the advice in our guide to securing your Google account to ensure account safety.
Apple offers a competing digital wallet service, similar to Google and Samsung. The company only stores your card info on the device you use to enter it, so if hackers breach Apple’s servers, your cards are safe.
If criminals breach Apple’s servers, they won’t be able to use your cards. If a thief steals your device, they can make purchases. You should immediately log into your Apple ID and disable any cards attached to your stolen device.
The Bottom Line
Which payment option is safest for you depends on your situation:
- Generally, if you’re paying in the real world, the virtual wallet options above are considerably safer than paying with a credit card.
- The safest online option is to use a disposable credit card. These prevent your real card details from ever hitting the internet.
- Bitcoin is an option but has limited availability.
- If you have to use an option like Klarna or PayPal, ensure your connection is secure. You should make sure you’re using a real website.
If you’re worried about your online safety, buy a comprehensive security audit here.
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