For those who weren’t already sensitive to the pressing need to protect credit card information, the Target data breach of 2014 probably came as a big wakeup call—40 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen from Target during the holiday shopping period, giving new meaning to shoplifting and rocking the card industry.
News of other major breaches followed, forcing both the industry and consumers to start asking how to keep their information safe. Although credit and debit card fraud and theft are common, you can take steps to ensure your cards are safe.
Credit Card Safety Tips
Most trouble occurs with credit cards that have been lost or stolen, so you need to keep close tabs on your cards. This is especially important when you’re traveling or in an area where pickpockets are common. It takes only seconds on a crowded street or train for a thief to grab your wallet and start racking up debt on all your credit cards.
Remember that someone looking to use your card doesn’t need to have the actual piece of plastic to use it—only the account number and expiration date. Consider these tips to help avoid having someone steal your information:
- Don’t ever share account numbers or personal information by email, even if requested in an email that looks like it’s from your bank or other official institutions.
- Request for and pay your statements online to avoid having your information in the mail.
- Sign the back of your credit or debit card in ink as soon as you receive it, if applicable.
- Some new chip cards don’t require a signature.
- Keep your credit and debit cards in a place where no one can see them, and be careful to keep your personal identification number private when using your debit card.
- Don’t ever give your credit card number to someone over the phone unless you’ve initiated the transaction.
- Keep anything containing your card numbers in a safe place, and shred any papers before disposing of them.
- If you move, give your credit card company advance notice so your statements and other information don’t end up in someone else’s mailbox.
- Your credit card company will contact you if it suspects fraudulent charges to your card, so be sure it has your current contact information.
- Be sure you get your card back from the sales clerk after using it in a store.
- Hang on to receipts for credit and debit card purchases, and check your accounts frequently to ensure they match.
- When signing a receipt or check, draw a line through any extra spaces. For instance, if you’re paying a restaurant check with a card but leaving a cash tip, cross out the tip line on the bill.
Some people are reluctant to sign because of security concerns, but credit card companies claim it’s the best and safest method of preventing someone else from using your card.
Most credit and debit card fraud is preventable, and you can avoid a lot of trouble by being diligent with your cards and using common sense. Credit and debit cards can quickly change from a convenience to a huge hassle if they’re lost or stolen, so be aware of where you keep them and how you use them.
Electronic Safety Tips
Our electronic devices make it possible for us to bank, shop, and stay in touch from anywhere, but they also can make us vulnerable to security breaches. It’s very important to safeguard your devices and networks as much as possible to avoid problems.
Here are some suggestions:
- See if your bank offers fraud protection software. Many banks offer this service for free.
- Download and install authorized software and operating system updates as they become available.
- Be sure your computer and internet have a firewall to prohibit unauthorized users.
- Install virus-protection software on your computer, and get updates as soon as they are available.
- Only make purchases from secure sites when shopping online. Look for web addresses that contain https.
- Secure electronic copies of receipts and confirmation numbers by printing or saving them to your desktop.
- Assign highly effective passwords to all accounts, and keep them secret. Change them periodically.
If you don’t already have a credit card with an embedded microchip, chances are you soon will. A chip card looks like a standard credit card but contains both the traditional magnetic stripe and a new microchip. The chip provides enhanced security, and these cards will soon be standard, as liability for security breach is transferring onto merchants who do not employ chip card technology.