Easy Ways to Protect Your Card From Fraudsters
It’s one of the worst feelings anyone can experience.
You are out shopping, go to reach for your debit or credit card, and find that it’s missing. Or perhaps you are at home reviewing monthly bank statements and see hundreds of dollars in credit or debit card charges that you didn’t make.
In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission reports that the Consumer Sentinel Network saw credit card fraud top the list of identity theft reports. The FTC received more than 271,000 reports from people who said their information was misused on an existing account or to open a new credit card account.
But there are some easy ways to protect yourself and your credit, and it starts with being aware of account activity. With the right information and resources, you can spot early warning signs of potential problems and address them before they get out of hand.
Knowledge is Power
Because a credit card thief can strike using a variety of ways—physical or cyber—you can’t always stop fraud from happening. But, by following some simple tips from the Federal Trade Commission, you can make it more difficult for would-be thieves to access your credit cards and account information.
KEEP A RECORD
Keep a record of your account numbers, expiration dates and the phone number of your credit card companies in a secure place so you can report fraud to each company as soon as possible. Many companies have specific toll-free numbers and a 24-hour service to deal with credit card fraud complaints. Once you report the loss or theft, the law says you have no additional responsibility for charges you didn’t make; in any case, your liability for each card lost or stolen is $50. If you suspect that the card was used fraudulently, you may have to sign a statement under oath that you didn’t make the purchases in question.
HOLD ONTO YOUR CARD
Don’t lend your card to anyone — even your kids or roommates — and never leave your cards, receipts, or statements around your home or office. When you no longer need them, shred them before throwing them away.
KEEP ACCOUNT NUMBER SECRET
Don’t give your account number to anyone over the phone unless you have made the call to a company you know to be reputable. If you have never done business with them before, do an online search first for reviews or complaints. Never write your account number on the outside of an envelope.
SEPARATE CARDS AND WALLET
Carry your cards separately from your wallet. It can minimize your losses if someone steals your wallet or purse. And carry only the card you need for that outing.
During a transaction, keep your eye on your card. Make sure you get it back before you walk away.
Never sign a blank receipt. Draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.
SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS
Save your receipts to compare with your statement. Then shred them when they are no longer needed.
LOOK AT BILLING STATEMENTS
Open your bills promptly — or check them online often — and check them against recent purchases you have made.
REPORT A PROBLEM
Report any questionable charges to the card issuer as soon as possible.
Notify your card issuer if your address changes or if you will be traveling. If your card gets swiped at an unusual location, the card issuer may decline the suspicious transaction.
Stay Protected Online
Large online, or e-Commerce, merchants can experience increases in fraud-related costs, especially around the holiday shopping period. If you’re an online shopper, here are a few basic tips on making sure you stay secure.
- Make sure the website you’re shopping on is secure and starts with an https:// instead of http://. You’ll also see a small lock on the lower right-hand corner of the screen. This means the site is secure for transactions.
- Don’t make online purchases in public places such as coffee shops or public Wi-Fi areas. Their networks are usually unsecure and the information you are entering might be stolen right there at that location. Avoid using retail websites to store your personal and payment information, if possible. Although it speeds up the checkout process, it leaves your identity and financial information exposed should that server experience a data breach.
- Other cards, like United Federal Credit Union’s eCash card, help limit your risk of a major online security breach. These cards work like a debit card and a gift card combined. It can be used just like your debit card, but since it is not directly tied to a checking account, only funds that are pre-loaded to the card can be accessed by the user. So, if someone steals this card’s account information, your main checking and savings accounts remain safe and unknown to the thief.
Keep a Watchful Eye
Just like a yearly visit to your doctor’s office, sometimes the best defense against card fraud is awareness and routine account checkups. By keeping a pulse on your account, you are able to respond quickly to any suspicious activity.
Review your monthly statements or e-Statements and notify your financial institution if you spot any charges that shouldn’t be there. Also, many card issuers provide fraud protection services. These departments track unusual account activity and call you to confirm whether you were the one who made the transaction. Another smart practice is to review your credit score frequently. Each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – are required to provide you with one free credit report each year. Current reports are available from each bureau at a monthly or yearly cost.
The Bottom Line
Remember to stay S.A.F.E. Since the dawn of commerce and currency, there have been people trying to steal from others. But it’s not just the thieves who have evolved their tactics over time – financial intuitions and their members also have new ways to protect themselves against fraud. Even as technology advances and we advance toward an increasingly digital society, there are still some easy and effective ways to make sure your information stays safe.