Are You Vulnerable to Credit Card Fraud? Follow These 6 Preventive Steps

Being a victim of credit card fraud is no doubt an incredibly frustrating experience. When you hear news of a huge security breach at a well-known retail giant or someone stealing another person’s information and making unauthorized purchases, you can’t help but feel vulnerable knowing that there’s always a possibility of getting tricked by fraudsters.

However, while scammers devise sneaky methods to lure you into giving out your card information and personal details, there are ways for you to bolster your protection against fraud.

Always be cautious and follow these steps to prevent credit card fraud.

Keep an Eye on Your Statements

Review your credit card statements periodically, preferably at least once a month, to check for unusual credit activity. This way, you can immediately spot suspicious purchases that you don’t recall paying for, and you can thus promptly take action and report the strange financial activity. Also, check your statements for your other accounts, including your bank, brokerage and retirement accounts.

Examine your credit report annually to check your overall credit history. The three major bureaus (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax) are required by federal law to provide you with a free credit report each year. Checking your credit report not only helps you identify dubious credit activity that you may have missed earlier; it also gives you a chance to fix erroneous details, such as incorrectly listed missed or late payments, to help boost your credit score.

Opt for Fraud Alerts

Find out if your credit card provider offers free transaction or fraud notifications. Credit card companies typically alert cardholders regarding suspicious activities through text and email messages. Credit monitoring services also are available if you prefer to receive notifications whenever your credit history changes, including when your credit limits change, your personal information gets updated, a company probes your credit history, and when a new card account is opened or a new loan is taken out under your name.

However, credit monitoring services typically do not warn you when someone withdraws funds from your bank account or files a tax return and obtains refund using your Social Security number, so it’s best to take advantage of your credit card provider’s fraud alert services as well as personally monitor your statements even when you sign up for a monitoring service. When choosing a credit monitoring service, make sure to ask about the monitoring frequency and if the provider keeps track of all three major credit reporting agencies.

Consider Fraud Protection When Getting a Card

Besides comparing fees and rates, it’s more critical than ever to choose a card that gives you peace of mind by offering fraud protection. Some credit cards feature a liability guarantee that gives you the reassurance that you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized purchases. Additionally, try to find out if your chosen credit card company offers paperless statements for added convenience. Credit card companies with fraud experts and excellent customer service are a reliable choice.

Protect Your Personal Information Online

When it comes to online fraud, scammers often victimize unsuspecting cardholders through deceptive pop-ups, emails, links and web pages. Fraudsters who use phishing scams often lure people into revealing personal information by pretending to be representatives of reputable firms and agencies. These scams involve copying the website layout and using the names of renowned companies, making emails and pages look legitimate.

When shopping online, avoid sharing your credit card or personal details unless you’re completely sure that the site is secure. Steer clear of websites without SSL protection. It’s also best to ignore emails from unknown senders and avoid clicking suspicious links. If an email or a web page requests for your credit card information, Social Security number, birth date, password or other important details, be sure to thoroughly investigate the validity of the request before sharing anything. You may want to contact the company directly to verify a suspicious email message. Keep in mind that financial institutions do not ask for sensitive information over email.

To ensure a robust online protection, update your antivirus software, browser and operating system regularly. Check that your computer’s firewall is running properly. It’s best to use strong passwords containing a combination of letters, numbers and symbols and to change your passwords periodically. It also helps to install a pop-up blocker and avoid downloading files from risky sites.

Be Wary of Deceptive Marketing

A common fraudulent practice among shady websites is initially offering a free trial without properly informing users that the subscription automatically starts after a certain period. Many users discover months later that they’re actually getting billed for a subscription they never intended to continue. To avoid becoming ensnared by these tricky marketing schemes, you should make it a habit to read terms and conditions and stay away from free trials requiring your card number.

Be cautious of “free” offers that sound too good to be true, whether you’re visiting an attractive, professional-looking website or someone’s telling you over the phone that you’ll get a bunch of freebies once you sign up and provide your account number. Even if you’re confident that you’re getting a legitimate free trial, make sure to determine if it’s necessary to opt out of it when the trial period ends. Call your financial institution if you can’t resolve a payment issue with the merchant.

Protect Your Information Offline

Unknown to many, credit card fraud and identity theft frequently occur not only in the cyberspace but also in the real world. It’s not uncommon for repairmen, live-in caretakers and even family members to access and steal important documents at home. Be sure to put away your valuable documents in a safe location that’s not easily accessible. Shred mail containing credit card or personal information. You may want to consider signing up for online bill statements and payments, not only to reduce your carbon footprint but to ward off the risk of exposing your personal details through paper statements.

Be mindful of your surroundings when providing your credit card number over the phone, especially when making an order at a public, crowded area where passersby could possibly overhear your account details. And when getting credit card receipts, always check that they’re not blank before signing. If the receipt shows blank spaces, just draw a line or put $0 in the spaces to keep the cashier from writing a particular amount on it. Stash receipts to compare with your statements. When there’s someone in line behind you as you’re typing your PIN, safeguard your PIN by covering it with your hand to protect yourself against potential fraudsters and identity thieves.

Report any lost or stolen credit card right away, so your card issuer can promptly cancel your card to prevent unauthorized use. Before going on a trip, remember to inform your card issuer about your destination and duration of travel. It’s a good idea to separate your credit cards from your wallet, so you don’t lose both your cash and cards whenever you’re out and about. By being extra vigilant with the use of your cards and taking precautionary measures to protect your personal information, you’ll be able to combat credit card fraud more effectively and stay one step ahead.

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