I was home on a Friday afternoon when my cell phone rang from a number I did not recognize. An automated voice announced it was my credit union and they wanted to review some recent credit/debit charges, such as a $500 purchase at an electronics store in Florida and a $70 purchase at a Walgreens in North Carolina. I realized that someone, somewhere, somehow, had obtained my credit card information and went on a spending spree. Fortunately, my credit union caught it and shut down the card. Unfortunately, I became one of millions of victims of credit card fraud. The Federal Trade Commission says consumers reported credit card fraud more often than any other form of identity theft in 2017. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim.
Here are some do's and don'ts:
- DO review your financial statements. Log on to your accounts online to keep up on charges, and make sure you go through the paper statements each month.
- DO beware of ‘phishing.’ Phishing is a scam to trick consumers into revealing personal information. You may receive an email, a text, a letter, or even a phone call from what appears to be a legitimate source, asking for your information, including credit card numbers. Always be wary of requests for your personal information, and always verify before giving it out.
- DO be watchful for ‘skimmers.’ Thieves may install skimming devices on an ATM machine or gas pump. When you swipe or insert your card, your credit card number is compromised. If you see something unusual, report it. It is also a good idea to use bank-owned ATMs for cash withdrawals.
- DON’T save your credit card information online. I love to shop online, and my credit card was saved on file at several of my favorite retailers so it was easier to check out. However, companies can experience data breaches, putting your information at risk. You can limit your risk by entering your card information manually every time you shop online. You may also choose to use a service like PayPal.
- DO use mobile payment apps. Apple Pay or Android Pay use tokenization technology. The transaction is conducted without your primary account number, so your information remains secure.
- DON’T use unsecure websites. If you are shopping online, make sure the web address begins with HTTPS. If the (S) is not there, that means the site is not secure and you should not enter your personal information. You may also look for a padlock on the left side of the address bar.
- DON’T conduct credit card transactions in public places on public Wi-Fi. A thief on that public network could scan the data and capture your information. Some thieves also set up a Wi-Fi network with a similar name to capture your information that way.
- DON’T use the same password for everything. If you use the same password for more than one site, you are putting yourself at risk. If one site experiences a breach, hackers could use your information to see if it works on several other sites. Password managers, like 1Password, can be a big help. They can store and suggest unique passwords so you do not have to remember them yourself.
- DO shred documents that show your credit card number. Thieves can try any trick in the book, including going through recycling bins on trash day!
- DO keep apps and anti-virus software up to date.
Something to keep in mind:
It is important to note you are not liable for fraudulent credit card purchases, but it can still be a major hassle to resolve. You will have to get a new card and go through the process of changing all of your autopay charges to the new account. Taking a few precautions will help reduce your risk, and keep your personal information private.
NOTE: The Federal Trade Commission also suggests some steps you can take if you fall victim. Visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0216-protecting-against-credit-card-fraud.