It seems that credit card fraud is all around us and that security breaches in this country are some of the highest in the world, accounting for 72% of all data breaches. It is no surprise, therefore, that people are starting to look for ways to prevent credit card fraud, no longer fully trusting the measures put in place by the banks or credit agencies.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service has written an official advisory showing how many malware infections happened at point of sale. Since the vast majority of credit card fraud actions start there, this data is incredibly important. Thousands of businesses have been affected, including major hotel chains and large retail stores. It was also found that, in many cases, this is because they are slow to protect their customers’ data.
In order for merchants to be able to accept Discover, American Express, MasterCard, JCB or Visa credit card payments, they must assess their data security, according to the Payment Card Industry Council. However, they only have to demonstrate this once a year, although quarterly scans are also performed.
At the same time, the payment processing system itself isn’t safe. At the moment, each payment transaction shows the account number, the account owner’s name and the card expiration date from which the payment is taken. Industry leaders are calling for a better system that uses tokenization and encryption. This would make it much more difficult for hackers to commit credit card fraud. At worst, if they were to obtain a token, they would be able to only commit a single act of fraud, as each token can only be used once.
While debate about what the industry can and needs to do about credit card fraud continues, it is also vital to know what you can do as a consumer to protect yourself. Much of these have to do with common sense, but many people forget about the importance of such little things every once in a while. They are little things, but they can make a huge difference. Let’s take a look at 8 ways to prevent credit card fraud.
1. Make Sure Your Credit Cards Are Safe
This means that you should always keep your cards hidden away and kept close to your body. Women who carry their purse in their handbag should make sure their bag is zipped and cannot easily be snatched. Men who carry it in their pocket should move it to their front pocket, which is usually deeper as well. Additionally, it is important to only carry the cards you actually intend to use, rather than all of them.
Also, make sure your credit card is never exposed. It is all too easy for thieves to use their smartphone to take a picture of your card and use this to their advantage. Hence, shield it from view and put it away immediately after use. Double check, after you have made a purchase, that you have your card back and that it is safely put away in your purse or wallet once again.
2. Shred Documents with Credit Card Details
If you still receive paper statements from your credit card company, make sure these are shredded straight away. In fact, consider switching over to electronic statements. Additionally, if you order anything that has your credit card number on it, make sure this is shredded straight away as well. This is equally true for any old, expired or cancelled credit cards. Although it may sound excessive, spreading the shredded bits across different bags is a good idea, as it will prevent thieves from being able to puzzle it back together.
3. Never Sign a Credit Card Receipt that Is Blank
Before you sign any credit card receipt, you must make sure that the amount on it corresponds with the amount that you wanted to pay. If there are any blank spaces on the receipt, fill them with $0 or draw through them. Make sure you do this before you sign anything. If you don’t, the cashier would be able to fill in any amount and have that paid by the issuer. It would be like handing over a blank check.
4. Do Not Share Your Credit Card Information
If you must share sensitive information like your credit card, for instance, if you are making a payment over the telephone, you must only do so if you know that you are actually speaking with the person or merchant you are expecting. This should only happen, therefore, if you made the telephone call yourself. If a message is left on your answerphone, or if someone phones you directly asking for your credit card, never share your details with them. It is a known trick of identity thieves to pretend they are a business or even a credit card issuer in the hopes that you will share your details with them.
5. Watch Out How You Use Your Credit Card Online
If you see an email that looks like it is from your credit card company, your bank, the government or anything similar, you must be very wary. If they then ask you to click on a link to confirm your personal information, you must even more wary. One of the key factors to look for is that the email actually starts with your name, and not with ‘dear customer’ or something to that extent. However, even if it starts with your name, you must still be very careful. In many cases, the links are what are known as phishing links, which means that someone has built a website to look exactly like one that you are a member of (like your bank) in the hopes that you will enter your personal information.
If you shop online, you also have to be very careful. You must be 100% sure that the store you are shopping with is legitimate. Look at the lower right corner of the screen of your browser (different browsers have different locations) and look for the lock sign. If that sign is there, the website is secure. This means that the owners of the site will actually never see your credit card information so they couldn’t share it even if they wanted to.
6. Always Report a Lost or Stolen Card Straight Away
If you do lose your credit card or believe it to be stolen, you have to report it immediately. The quicker you do that, the less likely it will be for someone to make fraudulent charges in your name. In most cases, you will be out of pocket if someone makes these charges, so it is important to avoid this. As such, save your bank and credit card company’s customer service telephone number in your smartphone, so that you can always ring them straight away. You must also demand that a new card is sent out to you immediately.
7. Check Out Your Billing Summary
Make sure you actually look at all the different charges and payments made on your account when you receive your statement. An unauthorized charge is a huge red flag that could suggest someone tried to commit credit card fraud in your name. It doesn’t matter whether the charge is for a few cents or a few thousand dollars, you must report it straight away. Many identity thieves start with very small amounts to see if they can get away with it. If the credit card issuer believes your account is compromised, they will be able to close it straight away. It is also recommended to request a replacement card as soon as you believe invalid charges have been made on your account.
8. Sign Up with a Credit Protection Service
There are now numerous credit protection services that help you monitor your credit file. While you are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit file once a year from each of the main credit bureaus, this technically gives a potential thief 364 days to steal and use your identity. By signing up to a protection service, you will be aware of any wrongdoings much sooner. Do remember, however, that it is never possible to 100% prevent identity theft, and that you must always be proactive in terms of protecting yourself as well.