Online shopping has become a significant convenience for consumers all over the world. From exclusive online sales to national shopping days like Cyber Monday, e-commerce is a part of the average consumer’s daily lifestyle. 2017 marked the year of data breaches, as confidential information, from social security numbers to credit card numbers and other personal contact information was exposed to the public. As we kick off 2018 in a digital world where data is easily compromised, consumers need to take necessary steps to best protect their digital identities and position security as a priority.
When instant gratification is easily accessible, consumers are simply better educated about convenience than safety. For example, if you’re signing up for an account with Amazon.com and are asked to keep a card on file, Amazon will spend much more time explaining why adding a card for your convenience is a good idea and less time educating you on the security risks or benefits.
We download an endless number of apps and input our personal information. We share our location and personal details on social media. We save our credit cards to almost every online store we shop at regularly. However, we’re not as well-informed with safety, and only told the benefits of convenience. So why would we think otherwise? This is why, despite Equifax and other major data breaches that have occurred recently, we haven’t seen much of a change in consumer behavior. There’s an all-or-nothing mentality — either engage in the world or don’t; either freeze your credit or just hope it doesn’t happen again; either shop at Target or don’t; either use Uber or don’t. However, that sort of lifestyle is unrealistic and impractical. There are simple solutions to protect your digital footprint in the online world.
The first step is to be selective about where information is saved and is to avoid sharing your data whenever possible. If a retailer or service provider asks to keep a card on file, decline. Get in the habit of choosing security over convenience.
A practical solution is to use an intermediary service that can shield your information. For example, using a service like Apple Pay or Google Wallet for in-person shopping or other similar services allows you to save your card information and tokenize your identity rather than providing confidential information with every payment made.
There’s no easy way to track where your financial information is stored, but keeping an eye on your credit card statement daily is highly recommended.
Even if consumers take the necessary steps, company data breaches are out of an individual’s hands. Many retailers and banks are clinging to their existing security measures. They're expanding their software and technical staff and expertise, tightening their security features, and trying desperately to stay ahead of the curve. The future of payment security is more decentralized, with actual security companies providing and ensuring payment security rather than the online retailers.
The best way to stay secure is to share as little as possible and be extremely careful where and when you provide sensitive data, particularly payment data. Use apps that allow you to conceal your personal payment information when you shop online, thereby reducing your digital footprint.
Zohar Steinberg is the CEO and founder of Token, a security-driven payment company on a mission to help consumers pay without experiencing payment fraud .
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