As optimistic as I like to be about the world, the realistic truth is that there are really bad people who are good at stealing credit card information. To be aware of the problem is one step toward prevention—you can’t prevent a problem that you don’t acknowledge. While a true solution to stopping fraud has yet to be discovered (other than simply not using credit cards), some tips and tricks for preventing credit card fraud are available (and are super simple).
Easy Behavior Changes: Teach yourself some new tricks to add a layer of security around you.
- Use your branch ATM. Branch ATMs have better security than an ATM on the corner of Sketchytown, USA. Most financial institutions even have in-house fraud teams that are ready to investigate in order to recover the lost assets.
- Carry only necessary cards with you. I have a debit card, a main credit card, a Target card, a Banana Republic card, and a Best Buy card. There is no reason to carry all of those cards at the same time. Talk about easy-pickin’s if I were to get my wallet stolen! So, I carry my debit card and my main credit card (unless I am specifically going to those other stores).
- Cover the pin pad, any pin-pad, when you use it. I know it seems old-fashioned, but it honestly is the best safety net. I love people, but not every person behind you in line is a law-abiding person.
- Narrow your retail focus. Don’t get me wrong—try new stores when you treat yourself, but let’s establish habits that are easy to notice on your statement when they’re broken. When you only get gas at one particular store, it’s easy to know if a gas charge is yours. If you habitually never shop at WalMart, then you (and your credit card company’s fraud detection service) will easily spot that your card is compromised if a purchase at that store was made.
On the Tech Side: More and more, credit card fraud occurs online and through phones. Adapt to that.
- The obvious—change your passwords (especially to your banking and credit card sites) regularly. I know, I know! I grumble too when I’m at work and I get that little reminder to change my password. But it’s for a reason! I started changing all of my passwords at the same time. Although I don’t use the exact same password for every site.
- Do not store social security number, credit card information, or passwords on a smartphone. Yes, there are really cool apps that say they securely hold information. But your phone can get stolen and unlocked easily. (Yes, it is easy to do. And the instructions are at anyone’s fingertips that can Google “unlocking an iPhone.”) If they can get into your smartphone, they can get into your credit card information.
- If you’re a frequent traveler, avoid using your credit card for any purchase over a public internet connection. Whether it’s at a local library, or at an airport’s hot spot, or a cozy café—their internet connection is primed for criminals to gain access to your account and personal data.
- 8 million US consumers had their credit cards breached—more than three times the amount from 2013.
- 45% of that group had their card compromised through online methods—the criminals didn’t have the card.
- 37% of that group had their card duplicated through skimming devices—a criminal copies the card data.
- 14% of that group lost their card or it was stolen—I worked in a fraud call center in a past professional life, and the amount of people who lose cards is shockingly high! And it seems that many of the same people always lose their cards (I blocked a card for a member once who had gotten a new card every 6-8 months!!!).
More people have debit cards than credit cards. The two card types are not synonymous; however these tips for preventing credit card fraud can be easily applied to debit cards, too. I hope this never happens to you; so far it hasn’t happened to me. Let’s stay diligent to secure our information in this internet world—it’s our finances, our credit, and our future. Join me in taking these steps in preventing credit card fraud to the best of our ability. There has to be more that we can do though. What successful stories have you heard in preventing this criminal activity?
By Michal Broussard, FTWCCU Loan Processor.