It’s infuriating to think of someone stealing my credit card. I imagine them dining at expensive restaurants, flying to exotic islands and driving luxury sports cars.
But the truth is some thieves simply want to sell your information. You may not know it was stolen until weeks later.
The crooked clerk, the dumpster diver, the online hacker and the phishing scammer – once they have your number, there is no telling how it will be used or when.
That’s why the key to avoiding credit card fraud is to protect your account numbers. It only takes four steps: plan ahead, be aware of the situation, monitor your accounts and destroy sensitive documents.
1. Plan ahead.
- Sign all credit cards as soon as you get them.
- Carry only the cards you need for that day and keep them separate from your cash.
- Register with Verified when you get a Visa credit card or SecureCode with your Mastercard credit card to get an extra security code when online shopping.
- Use extra security questions on all your online accounts.
- Get your mail every day it’s delivered to reduce risk for theft.
- Sign up for text alerts for purchases over a high amount you rarely hit.
- Question how your workplace, school or doctor’s office will safeguard your information if they keep paper copies.
2. Be aware.
- Never give away account numbers, passwords or PINs in response to unsolicited emails, texts or phone calls.
- Only give account numbers to reputable companies over the phone when you initiated the call. Never leave your account number on an answering machine.
- Keep an eye on your card during every transaction and make sure you get it back.
- Cover the keypad when entering pin numbers.
- Always take your receipt.
- Never sign a blank receipt. Draw lines through blank spaces above the total.
- Only use your credit card on entrusted websites. Look for a padlock on the bottom of the page and website addresses starting with an “http” on the payment page.
- Avoid phishing scams by using extra scrutiny when clicking on links in emails claiming to be your bank, credit card company or other financial institution.
“Check your statement to
look for fraudulent charges.”
- Check credit card accounts online throughout the month to look for unfamiliar businesses and charges.
- Save all your receipts and compare them to your statement.
- Check your credit reports yearly for unauthorized accounts.
- Install up-to-date antivirus software and a firewall on your computer.
- Watch for monthly bills and financial statements in the mail.
- Shred statements, offers and applications from credit card companies, financial institutions and investment houses.
- Destroy expired credit cards by cutting them in small pieces.
- Always log off a website when you are done – this goes for banking, credit card providers, shopping or other sites that have your personal information.
One last piece of advice to avoid credit card fraud: Keep a list of your credit card customer service phone numbers in your computer and in your phone.
If your card is lost or stolen, you will be thankful you didn’t have to wait to get home or look for the numbers online.
Plus, if you alert them within two days, you are only liable for the first $50 in fraudulent charges under the Truth in Lending Act. Wait longer than that and it could cost you $500.
Photo source: easymercado.com.
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.