30 Ways To Stay Protected Against Credit Card Fraud

30 Ways To Stay Protected Against Credit Card Fraud

July 30, 2020         Written By Tracy Farnsworth

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Back in 2008, 9.9 million people were victims of identity theft. Ten years later, the number had increased to 14.4 million victims. More people are paying for fraudulent charges out of their own pockets. Can you afford to pay for the debt that someone else racks up in your name?

Credit card fraud is one of the most common types of identity theft. One area that’s seen increasing numbers of reports is new account fraud. Victims are finding strangers have gotten hold of their credentials and opened new credit card accounts or taken out loans in their name. Losses for new account fraud reached $3.4 billion in 2018.

How are you supposed to protect yourself when scammers keep changing their approaches?

Take a look below at our detailed guide on the steps you need to take to protect yourself from becoming a victim of credit card fraud

1.) Watch the Mail for Replacement or New Credit Cards-

Keep track of your card’s expiration date. Replacement cards will be sent out. If you’ve applied for a new credit card, watch for the new card to arrive within three to seven days in most cases. You want to be watching for the card to arrive to make sure it ends up in your hands.

Sign up for Informed Delivery with the USPS. You’ll be able to see when your new credit card or replacement card arrives. What you don’t want to do is leave an unsigned credit card in your mailbox for hours or days. There’s a chance that mail theft will occur. If you’re expecting a card and it hasn’t arrived, notify the credit card issuer. The account will be closed, a new account number is assigned, and the replacement card gets sent out.

2.) Sign Cards ASAP –

As soon as a new card arrives, sign the back. This is a requirement. Look closely at the card and it likely says something like “Authorized Signature. Not Valid Until Signed.” You have to sign the card for it to be valid. Sign the card in a permanent marker if possible. Don’t make your signature so large that you cover the three- or four-digit security code. You’ll need that code when making online purchases.

3.) Tuck Photocopies of Cards in Your Safe-

Take a photo of your credit cards and print a copy. You want both sides of the card including the toll-free support number. Make sure the image is clear enough to read. If your credit card is stolen, you have all of the information you need to file a stolen/lost card report.

4.) Don’t Keep Your Cards in Your Wallet-

Do not place your credit cards in the same wallet as your driver’s license. If your wallet or purse is stolen, you want the credit cards to be in a different pocket or location. Only carry the card you need when you leave the house and tuck it into a different location. You could lock it in your glove box until you go into a store and return it to the glove box after you’re done. All other cards should be kept at home in a safe or secure location.

5.) Don’t Let Online Retailers Store Your Card Information-

When you shop online, don’t let the retailer store your credit card information. Some stores, such as Amazon or Walmart, will save your card. Go into your account information and find your card under “Payment Methods.” If there is a stored card in there, delete it. If someone hacks into your account or steals your phone, they can’t go on a shopping spree if there’s no card information in your account.

6.) Keep an Eye on Your Credit Card-

When you are shopping in a restaurant or store, keep an eye on your card. If the cashier or server needs to go into a different room with your card, ask if you can go stand in a doorway. It’s too easy for that person to take a photo of your card with a cellphone while the card is out of your sight. Some restaurants now allow you to pay right at the table. Ask if that’s possible.

7.) Use One Card for Online Purchases-

When possible, have one credit card that’s only used for online purchases. You do not want it to be a debit card unless that debit card is prepaid and not linked to any bank account. You have better protection against fraud if you use a credit card.

8.) Shop at Trusted Websites-

When you do shop online, stick to trusted retailers, and verify that the site is secure and that encryption is used during your purchase. Check for the SSL certificate. In Google Chrome, look at the left side of the address bar for the lock symbol. Click on that to view additional information and verify that the certificate is active. You may also want to search retailers before you finalize a purchase and see if they’ve been the victim of a breach in the past. If they have, find out what measures are in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

9.) Create Strong Passwords-

Set strong passwords when you create an account on a banking website or app. Five of the most commonly used passwords are:

  • 123456789
  • qwerty
  • Iloveyou
  • password
  • secret

Your password should be a mixture of symbols, numbers, and both upper and lowercase letters. If you struggle to remember a password, write it down and lock that password list away in a safe or locking file cabinet. You could also take a phrase, such as your favorite movie or book, and turn it into a password by replacing vowels with numbers and symbols. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird could become a password like T0Ki!!l@M*ck1ngb1rd.

10.) Move Away From SMS Codes for Log-In-

Do you use two-layer authentication to log in? If your phone gets stolen, what happens? The thief has the text needed to access your account once that code arrives. It’s also possible for hackers to intercept those codes and log-in from a remote location. The National Institute of Standards and Technology advice that banks and other secure sites still using SMS codes should add additional protection that verifies the number is part of the mobile network and not a VoIP.

11.) Do Not Throw Away Credit Card Receipts or Statements-

Don’t throw away your credit card receipts or statements. They often have information that can be used to steal account numbers and other important information. Shred them instead. You could also use non-colored, plain printer paper used for bank statements to start fires in a wood stove, campfire, or fireplace. Make sure the kindling is positioned above the crumpled bank statements to prevent the paper embers from flying away. 

12.) Check Your Credit Report Each Year-

At least once a year, go over your credit report to look for errors or accounts that are not yours. If you spot anything, notify all three credit bureaus and the police. Contact the bank that claims you have an account and ask for details. Make sure they know the account is not authorized by you.

13.) Opt-Out of Paper Statements-

Most banks and credit card companies allow you to opt-out of paper statements. Instead, you’ll get the statement online after you log in. This prevents you from having to dispose of the statement when you no longer need it. 

14.) Use Caution When Answering the Phone-

Due to the number of scams, people have started shifting away from answering the phone. Calls go to voicemail instead. If the call is legit, you can always call people back. If you still do answer the phone, be careful. There’s a common scam where the caller offers to lower your interest rate. All you have to do is give them your credit card number. Don’t do that. If it was really your credit card company, they’d send the offer via the mail or message you through their secure email system.

15.) Place Credit Freezes on Your Accounts-

If you’ve been the victim of credit card fraud, place a credit freeze on your credit report. It’s easy to do online. Go to each of the three main credit bureaus and follow instructions for requesting a credit freeze. You’ll get a password or code to enter when needed. This prevents anyone from taking out a loan or line of credit without first thawing the freeze. Only the person with that secure password can thaw the freeze.

16.) Check Balances Daily-

Make sure you’re checking your account each day for purchases or cash advances that you did not make. Report them immediately. If you take too long, you could be held responsible for that charge. Get in the habit of checking your balances each day so that you can stop the fraudulent use of your credit card before your card is maxed out or over the limit.

17.)  Apply for Credit Cards That Offer Fraud Protection Services-

When you apply for a new credit card, check out the fraud protection services. Cards may have 0% liability protection, free credit scores, and 24/7 account monitoring to watch your account for purchases that don’t match your habits. If a purchase is attempted that seems out of place, you’ll get a phone call to verify it’s you making the purchase before it’s approved.

18.)  Never Use Automatic Log-In Options-

Don’t use automatic log-in options on your phone. If you lose your phone or it’s stolen, you make it easy for someone to access your accounts without needing a password or username.

19.) Check ATMs, Gas Pumps, and Other Keypads Before Using Your Card-

Credit card skimmers are a device that thieves place over a credit card or ATM slot. It looks real, but it is a card reader that reads your PIN and card number and stores it. Once it’s captured several cards, the thief removes it and has everything needed to make fraudulent purchases. Before using an ATM or other keypad, check the card reader for a skimmer. Wiggle it to see if it is sold or moves. If it wiggles a bit, it could be a skimmer. Look to see if the card reader is a different color or material than the rest of the machine. Make sure the card reader’s graphics match the rest of the machine or other card readers on other pumps or registers. Should you find a skimmer, alert the store and the police.

20.) Moving? Change Your Address ASAP-

If you’re moving, change your address with all of your banks, utilities, and other companies as quickly as possible. If your credit card statement went to your old address, you have no guarantees that the new renter or homeowner would return it to the post office.

21.) Change Passwords and PINs When the Clocks Change-

There are differing opinions on when you should change your passwords. One thing is true, if there has been a breach of a website or company, change your password. Otherwise, the FTC advises you to change easy-to-guess passwords but leave others that you know are secure. Still, it’s a good idea to change your password at least once a year. Use a different password on each site you’re on. Don’t use keywords that are related to each other. Make sure your new password is at least eight characters long and includes letters, numbers, and symbols. A mix of lower and uppercase letters is a must. PINs should also be changed from time to time. Your bank may require you to change it each time you get a new credit card. Don’t use an easily identifiable number like the year of your birth of the last four digits of your phone number. Those are easy to find online.

22.) Make Sure You Get the Right Card After a Store or Restaurant Transaction-

When you pay your bill at a restaurant or store, check that the card you’re handed back is yours. Mistakes happen and the wrong card may have been handed to the wrong person. It’s better to find out before you’ve left the building.

23.) Carefully Cut Up Expired Credit Cards-

When you have an expired credit card, cut it up carefully. Cut horizontally across the card going through the account number, your name, the security code, and the signature line. Once you’ve made those horizontal cuts, make thin vertical ones. You want the shards to be very small pieces that have cut up the chip, the magnetic stripe, and any identifying information.

24.) Ask About Changing Account Numbers When Replacement Cards Are Issued-

When your card’s expiration date arrives, you’ll get a replacement card. Ask your credit card issuer if a new account number is assigned or if you keep the same number. Changing account numbers adds a level of safety. While you may take precautions to completely cut up your old card, if anyone were to take the time to piece it back together, they couldn’t use it if you have a new account number.

24.) Fake Some Numbers When Entering Your PIN-

If others are nearby when you’re entering your PIN, you can throw them off by pretending to enter extra numbers. As you use the keypad, press the digits you want but fake that you’ve pressed others. This works well if the machine doesn’t emit a beep with each number you enter.

25.) Use a Card With an EMV Chip-

They’re not foolproof, but credit cards with an EMV chip are better than a card with a magnetic strip. When possible, use the newer type of credit card. Most have them. If your card doesn’t contact your bank and ask why. You may be able to request a replacement card to get the newer technology.

26.) Watch Others When You’re Paying-

When you’re in line at a grocery store or other retailer, watch others around you. If they have a cellphone out, they could be trying to get a snapshot of the front of your card. Keep it hidden from view until you insert it into the card reader. If you’re entering a PIN, block the keypad while you enter your code. You can also use the last tip and fake that you’ve pressed other numbers. Use your hand to keep the card blocked while you return it to your wallet.

27.) Don’t Give Out Your Card Number Without Knowing a Business’s Security Measures-

During the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants that switched to curbside pick-up weren’t always set up for online payments. They were jotting down card numbers while taking phone orders. If a store’s computer system is down for some reason, they may write down your card number in order to get phone approval with a credit card processor.  Ask how they destroy the information they’re writing down. If they’re crumpling it up and throwing it out, it’s not good enough. They need to be shredding that information or handing the paper with your credit card number. Safe disposal is important.

28.) Never Sign a Blank Receipt-

If a store asks to take your credit card information to use later and just wants you to sign the blank charge slip, refuse that request. You shouldn’t risk having the employee charging extra. You do want to be able to trust everyone, but you can’t take that chance.

29.) Do Not Use Your Car’s Hands-Free System to Call Your Bank-

You were in a store and your charge was denied. It happens. Don’t immediately rush to your car and call the bank using the hands-free Bluetooth system. If you do, others walking past your car or sitting in a car nearby could hear every word, even if you have your windows closed.  Many of today’s cars have speakers in the door. Plus, people tend to turn up the volume to be sure to hear the person on the other end of the line. If you make a call from the hands-free system and have your doors and windows closed, the call is still audible from outside. Why does this matter? You call the automated system and give it your name. They’ve heard it. You enter your account number as prompted. As the computer repeats that number, others can hear it. They now have your account number. If you’re also prompted to enter your card’s expiration month and year, they have that. If it asks for your SSN, you’ve given someone all they need to do a lot of damage to your credit score.

30.) Ask Your Credit Card Company if They Offer Virtual Credit Card Numbers-

Not every credit card company offers this service, but some do offer one-time credit card numbers you can get for online purchases. Get that card number and use that for online purchases. You’ll never have to hand out your real credit card number this way.

 

What To Do if You are a Victim?

If you’ve found that you’re the victim of credit card fraud. Call your local police and file a report. You can also file an identity theft report online with the Federal Trade Commission. Keep track of your case number. You’ll want to have it handy when you call your bank and the three credit bureaus.

Contact your bank and let them know which charges are fraudulent. You may be held liable for $50 if your credit card company doesn’t offer $0 liability. This does depend on how quickly you discover fraudulent activity. You must act quickly. If you wait too long, you could be held accountable. By law, you have 60 days. If someone opened a new credit card account in your name, demand that the account be closed and give the credit card issuer the case numbers you received from the police and the FTC. Keep checking your credit reports to make sure that the fraudulent account is removed from your credit history. Send letters to the three major credit bureaus. If you do not have a credit freeze in place, complete those steps to protect yourself from additional fraud. You want to place the credit freeze with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Provide them with the case numbers to back up your claim. It may be tempting to pay off the fraudulent charges to protect your credit score. Don’t! Mark all fraudulent purchases. They will be removed from your balance pending the investigation. As long as you have a strong case, those charges will be removed or the new credit card account will be removed from your credit report.

Once you’ve reported credit card fraud to the FTC, you will receive an FTC report with a case number. You also have the right to have a fraud alert placed on your credit reports for up to seven years and free copies of your credit reports. While everyone gets one free credit report per year, you’re allowed to access them twice a year with each of the three bureaus if you have an extended fraud alert in place.

Before you apply for new credit, look over your credit report. You don’t have to find out you’re the victim of credit card fraud after you’ve applied. You’ll get a better offer if you have a higher credit score. When you know your credit report is good and you’re ready to apply for a new credit card, look for cards that offer fraud alerts and allow you to regularly check your credit score.

 

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The information contained within this article was accurate as of July 30, 2020. For up-to-date information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website. Many of the offers on this article are from our affiliate partners, and LowCards.com may be compensated if you take action with any of our affiliate partners.

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tracy

About Tracy Farnsworth

Tracy Farnsworth went straight from a business track in high school to a full-time job in mortgage banking in Burlington, Vermont. After having children, she built a freelance career in content writing and took online classes as time allowed. She completed Social Media Marketing and Digital Marketing certificate programs with Ireland's online Shaw Academy and completed several courses in SEO and analytics. In her free time, she's the “mom” to a very clingy rat terrier, and the pair walk at least a mile every day. She's also a novice baker who is trying to master the art of sourdough bread.