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Your Money: Should you save your payment info online?

A surge in identity theft in New York

A surge in identity theft in New York has been attributed in part to the pandemic, which provided opportunities for scammers and con artists, according to a report by State Comproller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Credit: Getty Images / Westend61

Everybody’s busy. Life hacks such as saving your credit or debit card information online seems like a smart timesaver. In a recent survey from Bankrate.com, 64 percent of people polled said they saved their debit or credit card number online or in mobile apps run by stores or service providers -- an airline’s website, for example. Nearly half said saving payment details is somewhat or very safe. However, convenience can be costly.

What could go wrong?

It’s uncomfortably common for hackers and scammers to tap into customers' accounts. The media reports big data breaches almost weekly, and smaller ones are common, too. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, from January 2005 through September 2019, there were some 10,900 data breaches.

“Criminals have access to your account and credit and debit card information. The usual security measures you take when you use your credit or debit card (e.g., entering the security code) are often skipped when your card is stored online,” says Joshua Zimmelmann, president of Westwood Tax & Consulting in Rockville Centre.

Debit card exposure

Katie Coleman, an Ameriprise adviser in Hauppauge, says debit cards can potentially expose you to more dangers than credit cards because debit cards are linked to your checking account. If you information is stolen, she said, the damage could have a cascading effect on your finances.

One way to protect your finances and identity could be to use payment methods like prepaid and gift cards, said Chelsea Brown, a certified cyber security consultant and CEO of DigitalMomTalk.com. “It may be annoying to load money on it, but would you rather someone stole your $30 Amazon Prime money or $5,000 worth of investment or rent funds?”

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