Credit card fraud can occur in a variety of ways, but the majority of them are avoidable if you take a few simple precautions to protect both your physical cards and your personal information. As a credit card holder, you have significant rights, and credit card companies provide the best fraud protection available – but you must take action to protect your information and exercise your rights as soon as possible if you suspect unauthorised activity.
Method 1 Protecting Your Card
1. Keep your cards in a secure place. Treat your credit cards as you would cash, and keep track of where they are at all times.
You could also try separating your cards from your wallet. If your wallet is stolen, the thief will not have everything.
2. If your credit card is lost or stolen, notify your credit card company immediately. After you report your card as lost or stolen, federal law states that you are no longer liable for any additional charges you did not make.
Typically, the company will cancel your card as soon as you report it; however, the credit card company is only legally allowed to hold you liable for a maximum of $50 for each lost or stolen card, regardless of when you report it.
Most credit card companies have automated lines open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to report a lost or stolen card.
If you are notified of a data security breach at a store where you have used your card, contact your credit card company immediately and request a replacement card.
If your wallet is stolen, you should notify local law enforcement as well as any other related companies or agencies. For example, if you had your health insurance card in your wallet and it was stolen, you should notify your health insurance company so that it can be replaced.
3. If you’re not going to use your cards, leave them at home. Leaving cards you don’t need at home, especially if you’re going on a long trip, reduces the likelihood of them being lost or stolen.
Don’t bring anything you don’t need with you. Bring whatever method of payment you intend to use to buy groceries, for example, if you’re going to the grocery store. A clothing retailer does not require you to bring your store card.
4. Notify your credit card company if you will be travelling overseas or to a distant location, or if you will be moving. Many credit card companies automatically block cards if suspicious activity is detected, which could include transactions at a location you have never visited before.
5. When making credit card purchases, make sure clerks check your signature and photo ID. When you check your ID, the clerk can compare your signature on the receipt to your signature on your driver’s licence, as well as verify your name and photo.
6. During transactions, keep an eye on your card. Do not walk away or turn your back on a clerk or other employee who is holding your credit card.
If a clerk has a problem with the transaction, make sure she returns your card before leaving.
Never sign a blank receipt, and before you sign, mark through any blank lines or spaces so that nothing else can be added to your total after you’ve signed.
Method 2 Protecting Your Accounts
1. When your cards expire or you close your account, cut them up or shred them. Even an expired card can be used to open a new account or reopen a previously closed one.
2. Before using an ATM, visually inspect it. Use a different machine if you see glue, scuff marks, or other signs of tampering on the keypad or around the area where you insert your card.
Skimmers are devices that thieves use to steal debit and credit card information. Although this is less likely in a busy area, always take a few moments to inspect a machine before using it.
3. If you’re in a public place, don’t check your finances online. Open wi-fi connections make it simple for hackers to steal your data, as well as anyone looking over your shoulder.
Wait until you are at home or have a secure wireless connection and some privacy before doing your online banking.
To improve the security of all your financial accounts, change your passwords on a regular basis and use complex combinations.
4. Avoid scribbling your PIN numbers on or near your credit cards. If you have a personal identification number (PIN) for cash advances, memorise it rather than writing it down.
5. Maintain a record of all account numbers in a secure location. When you open a new account, write down the account number, passwords, PIN, or any other important information, as well as the website or phone number for reporting theft, on a single document.
Update your document as needed and keep it in a safe or other secure location with your birth certificate and Social Security card.
Don’t scribble down account numbers or print anything with your account number on it and leave it out in the open. Keep all of your paper records locked away and your digital records password-protected.
You could also make copies of the front and back of your cards and keep them in a safe place so that you have all of the account’s identifying information on hand.
6. Only provide account information over the phone if you initiated the call. If you called, you know who you’re dealing with; otherwise, the caller may be misrepresenting himself in order to obtain your account number and use it.
7. Shred any documents that contain information about your account. After you’ve finished reviewing your account statement, shred it to prevent others from obtaining information from it that could be used to open a new account.
8. Every month, compare your receipts to your statements. Verifying the amounts for each transaction helps you ensure that no fraudulent activity is taking place and allows you to act quickly if something is wrong.
At least once a month, open your bills or check your account online and reconcile your accounts with your receipts.
If you discover a questionable charge, contact your credit card company right away. Federal law gives you 60 days from the date the first bill with the questionable transaction was mailed to you to notify the credit card company. The credit card company is required to resolve the problem within two billing cycles.
Your credit card company cannot restrict or close your account, report you as delinquent, or harm your credit rating while a potentially fraudulent transaction is being investigated.
Method 3 Protecting Your Identity
1. You should leave your Social Security card at home. Because your birthdate and Social Security number are the two most important pieces of information required to open a new account or access an existing one, never keep your Social Security card in your wallet.
Other identifying documents, such as your voter registration card or birth certificate, are also acceptable. Keep these documents in a secure location; you do not need to carry them with you.
2. Unless you initiated the communication, avoid disclosing personal information such as your Social Security number or birthdate. This information is not required by anyone who contacts you. If someone claims to be from a company with which you already do business, you should contact the company directly to confirm whether the communication was from them.
3. Be cautious about over-sharing on social networking sites or elsewhere online. Keep your personal information private, and avoid signing up for websites that require more information than is strictly necessary to open an account.
For example, if a blog requests your name, address, birthdate, and Social Security number in order to send you a weekly newsletter, it may be using your information for purposes other than a mailing list.
4. Examine your credit report on a regular basis. Because your personal information can be used to open new credit accounts in your name, you should review your reports on a regular basis and dispute any unauthorised activity.
If your credit card or account information is compromised as a result of a store hack or data breach, you can use a security freeze to restrict access to your credit report. If the hacker tries to apply for a new loan or credit card, the prospective lender will be unable to see your report, which means they will most likely not open a new line of credit.
5. All documents containing personal information should be shred. Before you throw anything away, destroy anything with personal information on it, even if it only has your name and address. You don’t want to give would-be identity thieves even a sliver of information.
6. Report phishing scams as soon as possible. Any unsolicited communication could be a phishing attempt by thieves looking to commit fraud.
If you have any questions, call your bank or credit card company at the customer service number listed on the back of your card.
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