Learning from my mistakes

One of the advantages of reading weblogs written by honest people is that they tend to share their experiences, even when they happen to be negative orĀ embarrassing. I try to do that very thing with my weblog, and I do so because I hope that other people can learn from my experiences without having to go through them themselves.

As it turns out, I committed one of the cardinal sins of online business in using my debit card as a means of conducting transactions instead of using a traditional credit card. Why is this a sin? Because, unlike credit cards, which have very developed fraud and dispute resolution protections as part of their terms of service, debit cards function just like cash, even when they have the Mastercard or Visa logo on them, and most banks are not as willing to help you solve fraud or dispute problems the way the credit card companies might. Further, debit cards take the money directly from your account while credit cards hold those transactions in a buffer account.

Having made this mistake, I joined the nearly 20 percent of Americans who have had their identities stolen since the government first started keeping records of such things. I will probably be able to resolve the problem because I caught it soon and took aggressive steps to stop further theft, but the fact of the matter is that it never needed to happen. Sure, someone might have compromised a credit card, but the damage would have been less and less enduring.

So, the lesson I want you to learn here is that, if you are using your debit card to conduct online business, stop. Use a credit card instead, or if you don’t have a credit card, look into using cash proxy services like PayPal or bank payment services. Do not use your debit card because you cannot protect your money if you do.

Further, make sure you are using strong passwords online. Do not use the same passwords for every site. If you need to write your passwords down, use a program that can encrypt them like KeyPass. Never, ever use personally identifiable information in your passwords–that includes names, dates, phone numbers, or anything that might be able to be found publicly.

Learn from my mistake and avoid letting it happen to you.