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Use Credit Cards for Online Purchases


Use Credit Cards for Online Purchases

Miami Herald, November 4, 2003

Believe it: Net safe to charge

Special to The Herald

You've probably heard that the Internet is a dangerous place to use your credit card. As the holiday shopping season approaches, you need to know that this is a myth. It's time to wake up and see the light.

The reality is that your credit card is the best way for you to pay for your online purchases. If you have a problem with your purchase, you will generally find your credit-card company quick to take your side by reversing the charge. By comparison, if you send a check, you have no convenient way to get your money back should a problem arise.

Federal law is protective of consumers when it comes to credit-card transactions. Say the hacker from your nightmares snatches your credit-card number as it traverses cyberspace (exceedingly unlikely, by the way); federal law limits your liability to $50.

Moreover, most banks waive that since they need your goodwill more than they need your $50.

The paranoia people have regarding credit-card use on the Net crosses the line into the irrational. I don't understand why they think it's OK to call 1-800-Send-Me-Some-Junk, talk to some anonymous person working for a no-name company located they know not where and blithely read her a credit-card number.

That's a much higher-risk transaction than sending your credit-card number over the Internet to

I'm not saying the Net is a perfect place for credit cards. There are risks, but these risks are reasonable, ''reasonable'' being the operative concept.

When it comes to security issues, if you seek perfection, you're doomed to fail. In fact, if you require perfect, you'd never give your credit card to a waiter, who then walks away it. For all you know, he could be in the back room, running it through enough times to feed an army. You wouldn't know until you got your bill. Still, it feels reasonable to give that waiter your card. And it is reasonable.

It's likewise reasonable to give your credit-card number to a reputable website. While it is true that a hacker could intercept the number, that's an extremely small risk, and the law protects you, in case it does happen.

If your merchant uses a secure server, the risk is even lower, probably approaching zero. (One way to ensure that it is indeed a secure server is to look at the address bar in your browser. If it's a secure server, the website address will start with ''https'' instead of ``http.'')

Look at it this way: If you wanted a perfectly safe life, you'd probably never let your kids leave the house. I submit that if you let them walk the streets, you can suck up the courage to send your credit-card number to

Mark Grossman chairs the Technology Law Group of Becker & Poliak off, P.A. E-mail him at techlaw@EComputer

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