Have you ever misplaced your credit card? What about ordered something online, but shrugged it off when the product never came?
Too often, seemingly innocuous activities pose more danger than you might think. Thieves and hackers are constantly looking for ways to acquire your information, whether it’s the old-school method of digging through your trash or more sophisticated tactics, such as hacking seemingly “secure” websites.
Although there’s no failsafe way to protect yourself, these steps can tilt the odds in your favor against fraudsters.
- Don’t lend your card to anyone—even family members.
- Don’t give your account number to anyone on the phone unless you’ve made the call to a company you know to be reputable. If you’ve never done business with them before, do an online search first for reviews or complaints. If they called you, ask to call them back.
- 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 to compare with your statement.
- Notify your card issuer if your address changes or if you will be traveling.
- Consider freezing your credit reports at each credit bureau (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to protect yourself from unknown account openings and charges.
Be proactive about protection.
- Ensure your anti-virus software and operating system is up to date on devices you use to make purchases.
- Carry only the card you need for that outing, and store the remaining cards under lock and key. If someone were to steal your wallet or purse, then you will have minimized your loss and saved yourself from calling multiple credit card issuers.
- Don’t write your account number on the outside of an envelope.
- Shred your cards, receipts, or statements when you no longer need them.
Trust your gut.
- Open your bills promptly— or check them online often— and reconcile them with the purchases you’ve made.
- Report any questionable charges, no matter how minor, to the card issuer and request a new replacement card. The sooner, the better.
If you do fall victim to credit card fraud, call the credit card issuer immediately. By law, your liability for unauthorized use of your credit card is limited to $50. For example, if someone steals your card and makes $1,000 worth of purchases, you are still only responsible for $50. However, if you lose your credit card and contact the card issuer before unauthorized charges occur, then you can’t be charged the $50, since the lender can take steps to cancel your card.
Credit card fraud is a real threat in our digitally dominated world, but technology also allows us more opportunities to fight it. Take the initiative to protect yourself now, and you’ll save yourself a world of headaches, inconvenience and even monetary loss down the line.