You've taken steps to avoid identity theft, and maybe even applied a credit freeze to your credit report. You can sit back and relax, right? Wrong. You may have prevented identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name, but have you kept your existing credit accounts secure?
As opposed to identity theft where your information is used to create unauthorized accounts in your name, credit card fraud refers to a single existing account. A thief has stolen your card or has the necessary card information to make unauthorized purchases on that account.
How do you prevent credit card fraud? Here, we offer thirteen possible precautions:
1. Avoid Phishing Scams – Never click on suspicious e-mail links. If there's any doubt, address the subject matter by calling the customer service number on the back of your card or your billing statement. Do not call numbers listed in the e-mail.
2. Enable Fraud Protection – If your card offers fraud protection or alert services, take advantage of them. The sooner you know about a breach, the sooner you can prevent further damage.
3. Protect Your Card in Public – Do you verbally give out your card information in public places? Do you leave the card out where others can swipe your information or take a photo of your card? You are asking for trouble if you do.
4. Watch for Skimmers – Remote ATMs and gas stations are common targets for card skimmers. A skimming device is placed over the card reader, appearing to be part of the reader itself. When you swipe, the reader stores the card information to be extracted at a later date.
5. Shred Unnecessary Documents – Your trash can be treasure for fraudsters who find personal information on old bills, receipts, junk mail, or other un-shredded sensitive documents.
6. Protect Your Mail – The red flag that alerts your postal carrier about outgoing mail also alerts thieves. Take sensitive mail such as credit card bills to the post office or to a secure drop box. Consider a locking mailbox to prevent incoming mail theft as well.
7. Wipe Devices Before Recycling – Before trading in or recycling old computers, phones, or tablets, make sure you wipe out the memory by reformatting hard drives and restoring factory settings. Services are available to shred old hard drives as an extra security precaution.
8. Use Trusted and Secure Sites – Use sites beginning with "https://" (like MoneyTips!) and look for the associated lock in the browser address. Make sure that you're not on a fake site. Sophisticated copies of websites exist, with only minor changes in the URL.
9. Don't Use Autofill – It's convenient to have a vendor store your credit card number, but that's just one more place for thieves to find your information. Enter your information for individual transactions.
10. Use Anti-Virus Software – Install anti-virus software and keep it regularly updated. Don't forget to protect your mobile devices. "There are probably millions of personal devices… that are completely polluted with malware key logging: viruses that are designed to capture key strokes and log-ins. It's a huge problem and I think a lot of times consumers look to their financial institution when they start to experience losses," says CO-OP Financial Services Industry Fraud Specialist John Buzzard. "You know, whether somebody logs into your account, takes it over and changes the address, and orders cards and PINs, whatever the case may be ... we assume that it's somebody else's fault. But then when we stop and talk about it for a minute, there are plenty of consumers out there that they don't even pay for virus protection."
11. Manage Passwords Well – Use strong passwords including characters and change them often. Don't repeat passwords or write all your passwords down and store them in a file – and if you do, at least don't label it "passwords."
12. Don't Share Your Card – If you choose to let a friend or relative share your card, do so at your own risk.
13. Check Account Activity – Review your card statements regularly for any fraudulent charges. Most card issuers allow you to check online postings each day. You may spot small fraudulent charges made to test the waters before a large spending spree. Note: Don't confuse this with the small (typically $1) placeholder charge that gas stations and some other merchants place on your card while your charge is being processed.
Many of these steps are just common-sense precautions. Why not apply them today and reduce the risk of future credit card abuse?
If you would like to monitor your credit to prevent identity theft and get $1 million in Identity Theft Insurance, join MoneyTips.