Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
As you might expect, I get a lot of questions from computer users who are concerned about their security. With relatively regular news of identity theft, credit card fraud, and large databases of information being hacked into, people are understandably concerned about the security of their own information online.
But in my opinion, what they should really be concerned about is the security of their information off-line.
We may all take online shopping quite for granted - In fact many of you may have already laughed at the mere title of this podcast. But the fact is there's still a significant number of people out there who are afraid to shop at on-line merchants - even the well known and reputable ones. Why? They're convinced that the internet is full of hackers who are just waiting to steal their credit card information as it goes by.
And yet these same folks are quite willing to give that same information - along with an image of their signature, no less - to a stranger at a restaurant, or a minimum wage clerk in a retail store.
As I wrote it in an earlier article, "most people have an over-inflated sense of risk when it comes to threats that they don't understand". What they do need to understand is the relative risks that they face.
Yes, online credit card theft does happen. But it's incredibly rare that it happen to an individual. The news reports that we typically hear of are of major break-ins at banks, where it doesn't matter if you used your card online or off. In fact, even most of those break-ins are caught and dealt with so quickly that those who are affected are impacted only to the extent that their account is disabled, and quickly replaced.
Individual theft occurs more frequently off-line. Perhaps a clerk makes a copy of your card and signature, a dumpster diver grabs your bank statements out of your trash, or someone steals your new credit card out of your mail box. Those are all more common than individual on-line theft, and even then they're fairly rare occurrences across the millions of cardholders and millions of transactions that happen ever day.
So shop on-line. Make sure the merchant's reputable, of course, and that the connection to their site is secure, but don't let an unfounded fear stop you from enjoying the convenience. I know I won't.