Scammers are continually finding new and clever ways to get at your financial data. So if you want a good defense against credit card fraud protection, it’s time to build up a good offense.
“Protection against credit card fraud begins with common sense,” says Lee Munson, a security researcher at Comparitech.com. “The most obvious thing cardholders can do is think about who they are sharing their card data with and how.”
Essentially, cardholders need to use credit cards safely and actively manage their sensitive data to block hackers and thieves. Here are eight clever ideas to prevent credit card fraud in today’s world of breaches, hacks, and data thefts.
Before you use an ATM, check that no one is watching you first. Then, obscure the number pad when entering the PIN attached to your debit card.
You also have to watch out for card skimmers around ATMs. They have become a common way for fraudsters to get your card information, and thieves often install them on ATMs. Try jiggling the card reader firmly to check for a disguised card skimmer. Additionally, visit ATMs from a trusted bank when possible since these get inspected more frequently for tampering.
“ATMs should always be scrutinized before use to ensure the card slot has not been tampered with by a device that can read all the data on a card inserted into it,” Munson says
If you can, try and limit the information listed on your card.
“Obfuscating the three-digit CVV number on the back of the card is also a secure option, though possibly one for the more paranoid,” Munson says.
Still, it couldn’t hurt to scratch off or black out the CVV or security number on the back of the card. This could make it harder to misuse card information if it’s stolen, or by taking pictures of it. Just make sure you memorize it first.
Also, add a note to “see ID” next to the signature line on your credit card. This should prompt a cashier to double-check your identity. And it gives three points of verification: your name, photo and the signatures on your driver’s license and credit card.
“Cardholders should ensure they do not allow their cards to leave their sight,” Munson says.
Restaurants are a common source of credit card theft because your card is handed over and the payment is processed out of sight. Or you might be asked to hand over your credit card to open a tab at a bar.
“There’s always the chance of someone snapping a photo of your card to sell or make a purchase â€“ they even have the CSV,” says Jonas Sickler, marketing director for safety site ConsumerSafety.org. Servers also might alter the tip you write on the receipt to commit theft.
“A safe alternative would be to pay the food bill with cash,” Sickler says in order to avoid these issues. Tableside point-of-sale systems are also a more secure option.
If you do end up paying with a card at a restaurant, always verify that the transaction amount posted to your account is correct.
In fact, you should make it a habit to regularly check transactions on your credit and checking accounts against receipts. This will help you notice and report fraudulent charges right away â€“ so you won’t be responsible for them.
“Look for irregular transactions and notify your bank immediately if you see something suspicious,” says Sage Singleton, security expert for SafeWise.com, a home security comparison site. The sooner you catch an error the easier it is to prevent identity theft and avoid losses, she adds.
Many credit card issuers and banks also have a security alert function that notifies you via email or text when any purchase is made. “[Setting this up] is an easy way to keep track of your spending and be notified immediately if something is wrong,” Singleton adds.
For debit or chip-and-PIN credit cards, your money is only as secure as your PIN.
Therefore, make it hard to guess. Avoid common PIN patterns like using sequential numbers (1234) or repeating numbers (1122). Don’t rely on easy-to-find personal information like a birthday for your PIN.
Similarly, passwords for financial accounts should be hard to guess.
“Don’t use the same password for every account and create strong, unique passwords,” Singleton advises. “Hackers are extremely tech-savvy and can crack weak passwords (like your maiden name, birth date or anniversary) and access your information easily.”
On top of creating secure passwords and PINs, you can also use security questions to help secure your account.
However, hackers can often track down answers to common security questions like “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “What is the name of the street you grew up on?”
When setting up security questions, try to select an obscure question you wouldn’t expect even a friend to be able to guess. That’s because, unfortunately, identity thieves are often people we trust.
And if there’s no such question available, give a fake answer to the security question. Or treat it like another password and “use a random string of characters as the answer instead of submitting any meaningful information,” suggests Wired.
Just don’t get lazy. Setting easy-to-guess lies like “I don’t know” or “I don’t have one” as security question answers can actually make your account less secure.
But your credit and debit card data aren’t just stored on your cards â€“ they can also be found in your smartphone or laptops. That’s why it’s important to protect your phone and computers with secure passwords.
You should also watch out for the networks you use.
“If you’re on a public wifi network, you should never log into private accounts, including social media or bank accounts,” Sickler says. “Don’t make any purchases either, because hackers can literally capture your information right out of the air.”
If you use a shared wifi network, even if it’s with roommates, look into setting up a virtual private network (VPN).
“A virtual private network (VPN) is imperative if you use credit cards online,” says Mike Baker, founder of cybersecurity provider Mosaic451. “VPN networks are designed to encrypt information before it goes through a network, thwarting potential attacks and making online purchases safer.”
Online retailers can also be a point at which hackers will try to get at your credit card information.
“When shopping online always be careful to make sure you are on a secure website,” suggests Alex Reichmann, CEO of security device company iTestCash. Therefore, if it’s a retailer you don’t recognize, do a little research to ensure it’s a legitimate merchant.
“It is also an extra protection if the website you are shopping on is SSL-secure which prevents fraudsters from interfering with the websites transactions,” Reichmann adds.
“For an added layer of security, consider a virtual credit card or even from independent services like PayPal,” Baker suggests.
Your identity is key to your financial world, accounts, and credit history. “It is vital to take every precaution to safeguard your identity,” Singleton says.
With advances in payment technologies, credit card fraud is easier than ever to perpetrate. But you also have more tools and strategies at your fingertips to protect yourself.