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Hardfacts on Software – What’s safest: credit cards, debit cards, cash, EFT or checks?

It seems that my series on online shopping has hit a nerve, so lets delve right in and discuss more about this. Here is take on which payment method is safest:
The safest way to shop on the Internet is with a credit card. In the event something goes wrong, you have the banks and Merchants to back you up. You have the right to dispute charges on your credit card, and you can withhold payments during a creditor investigation. When it has been determined that your credit was used without authorisation, you are only responsible for some of the charges. You are rarely asked to pay this charge. 

We recommend that you obtain one credit card that you use only for online payments to make it easier to detect wrongful credit charges.
Make sure your credit card is a true credit card and not a debit card, a check card, or an ATM card. As with checks, a debit card exposes your bank account to thieves. Your checking account could be wiped out in minutes. Further, debit and ATM cards are normally not protected by law to the extent that credit cards are.
It is illegal for a company that sells goods or services online to give a consumer’s credit card number (or other financial account number) to a third-party for sales purposes. This practice is known as “data passing.” The law prohibits a third-party seller from charging a consumer for any good or service, unless the seller (1) clearly and conspicuously discloses the material offer terms and that the third-party seller is not affiliated with the initial merchant and (2) receives express consent for the charge from the consumer.
The third-party seller must obtain the full financial account number directly from the consumer. The initial online seller may not transfer a consumer’s financial account number to a third-party seller.
The law also regulates “negative option” plans. A consumer must give express, informed consent before being charged for goods or services sold online through “negative option” marketing, such as “free trials” that the consumer must cancel in order to avoid being charged. Companies that use negative option plans must (1) clearly and conspicuously disclose the material terms of the transaction before obtaining the consumer’s billing information, (2) obtain a consumer’s express consent before charging the consumer, and (3) provide a simple mechanism to stop any recurring charges.
Online shopping by check leaves you vulnerable to bank fraud. And sending a cashier’s check or money order doesn’t give you any protection if you have problems with the purchase.
Never pay for online purchases by using a money transfer service. You could be transferring cash to a fraudster. Scammers will ask consumers to send them payment using a money transfer service such as Western Union or MoneyGram because they can get your cash fast and it’s difficult to trace. Legitimate sellers normally do not ask consumers to send payment that way. Money transfer services should only be used to send money to people that you know well, not to unknown sellers of merchandise online.”
But what if you don’t have a credit card and you can’t get one? Not all is lost. You can use services such as Mimoney, which allows you to pay with your mobile phone, or Ukash, which sells vouchers at supermarkets which can then be used for your online purchases.
Does this mean you should not buy online? Not at all. Just be a bit clever about how you go about it. Follow the tips and guidelines outlined in my column and you should be OK.
Until next time then – Keep it (A)fresh.

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