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Why Using Your Credit Card in a Restaurant is More Dangerous Than Online

It seems like on every TV channel these days there’s always some “in-depth” report profiling a poor soul that has fallen victim to identity theft through an online scam. As a result, millions of Americans hold deep reservations against using their credit cards online, believing the same fate will fall upon them. At the same time, however, Americans pass around their credit cards to merchants in the real world without even batting an eyelash. But when you take a step back and compare how credit cards are used in the real world versus online, it’s actually easy to see that you have much less to worry about in cyberspace.

According to Visa, restaurants are the most common locations for credit card theft, and that figure includes online retailers. This is probably because in restaurants, credit cards are actually taken out of your sight for a short while, leaving ample time for identity thieves to record private information. On the internet, no such window is provided to criminals. Your information is entered directly from your computer into a website’s secure database - there is no middle man. While many may feel a certain degree of anxiety over sending their information off to a nameless, faceless computer database, this is in fact much less risky than handing your credit card off to a human being whose intentions you can’t be entirely sure off. Still, there are steps that consumers can take to keep all their bases covered.

Keep an eye on your card

This one is obviously very simple. When a restaurant waiter or employee of any merchant takes your credit card from you, try to keep an eye on where he or she takes it. If it’s taking too long for the employee to bring it back to you, ask about it.

Look for the “s”

If you’re about to give your credit card info to a website, do yourself a favor and check to see that the page URL starts with an “https://” (and not just http://). That little “s” signifies that the site is secure and running encryption software for your credit information. While there are legitimate sites that lack the “s”, it’s always a safe bet to do business on https sites.

Never give your credit card info over email

We’re not just talking about avoiding those scam emails imploring you to send your information to a long lost relative who’s supposedly lost his passport in Nigeria. In any situation, be it to a close friend or a trusted merchant, it is unwise to give out credit card information over email. This is because now both you and your recipient have a written record of your credit card saved online. If either accounts get hacked, or if someone forgets to log out of a public computer, your sensitive information could fall into the wrong hands. A little diligence can go a long way in securing your credit card information. Be smart about how you use it, and you can enjoy the privileges of credit cards pain-free for decades to come!

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Quintanilla

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Logan Abbott's picture

Logan Abbott is a personal finance and credit card expert with over 5 years of experience writing about each topic. He is a graduate of the USC Marshall School of Business, and also contributes to other online finance publications. He has been quoted in the New York Times, San Diego Union Tribune, TheStreet, and more.

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