Online shoppers can score great discounts during the holidays, but before entering any credit or debit card information online, take precautions: Cyber criminals may look to snag a deal, courtesy of you.

Law enforcement officials first began warning consumers to swipe their credit and debit cards carefully a decade ago. The threat, they warned, was that criminals were installing skimming devices directly on ATMs, gas pumps and other types of card readers.

Illegally installed skimming devices steal a person’s payment information when they swipe their card, enabling criminals to collect consumers’ data and make purchases on another person’s dime.

Now, with online shopping, internet-based skimming schemes – or e-skimming – have hit the web, creating problems for consumers in the virtual world.

How does e-skimming work?

E-skimming occurs when cyber criminals discreetly introduce e-skimming software code to a website’s payment page. When a consumer enters their card information, the code allows the cyber criminal to gain access to and steal the customer’s data.

While cyber criminals can access a website’s payment page and install their code in a number of ways, a phishing scam against an employee or a third-party vendor who works on the website typically proves most successful, according to the FBI.

What can I do to prevent e-skimming?

Consumers largely rely on businesses to take security measures to protect themselves and their customers, but according to the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), online shoppers can take precautions of their own, including:

  • Researching a website before making a purchase.
  • Reading reviews to see if anyone has recently complained of e-skimming.
  • Checking the site’s security and privacy policy.

The NCSA also recommends using a credit card rather than a debit card when shopping online because credit cards often allow consumers to seek a credit or refund from the card issuer in case of fraud.

Additionally, secure payment methods, such as Apple Pay or Pay Pal, enable consumers to pay retailers without having to enter their card information online. This can protect customers from e-skimming.

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