Credit card fraud in the US is a rising problem. Up to 10% of Americans have been the victim of card fraud according to finance website bankrate.com. It’s easy to assume from the stories you see in the media that most of this fraud is the result of highly organised gangs using sophisticated techniques but the reality is the risks may be closer to home. Most card fraud cases are one off and may be conducted by someone you know such as family or friends. It’s crucial that you take some basic steps to keep your details in the right hands.
The biggest step you can take toward your own credit security is to pay attention. Do you know when your monthly statements arrive? If not, find out. One very common trick is for a thief to change the statement address to something other than your home, and then start charging. You don’t know anything’s amiss because you’re not getting the statement. And if you don’t even know when it’s supposed to arrive, you’re just setting yourself up for trouble. Read your statement when it comes and immediately report anything suspicious to your bank or lender.
Online security is important, too. Never access even a trusted website from a link in an unsolicited e-mail. These can be “mirror” sites set up to look identical to a trusted merchant’s, but in reality nothing more than data-mining sites that will take your credit card information and run with it. Go to a website through a Favorite or by typing the website manually into the address bar in your browser.
A secure website will often begin with “https” rather than the standard “http”. You’ll often see a small icon that looks like a padlock down near the bottom of your browser windowthough even those can be faked these days. Once you have finished shopping online you should close the internet browser down fully. And consider cleaning out your browsing history on a regular basis. In Windows, this can be done via Tools, then Internet Options. In the General tab, click Delete in the Browsing History section to eliminate the addresses of recently-visited websites.
Never, ever respond to an unsolicited e-mail or telephone call requesting your personal information. Banks and other merchants never request this informationremember, they should already have it on hand.
Protect your Personally Identifiable Information, or PII. NEVER give out your Social Security Number to an unsolicited phone call! If someone is asking for personal information and you didn’t call them you should hang up immediately.
If you should become a victim of credit card fraud, immediately contact your card issuer. Their number should be on your statement (which you’ve been checking every month of course?), but it’s a good idea to keep it in your address book, Day Planner, or PDA, as well. Your card issue needs to cancel your account with immediate effect and then set you up with a new account with the correct balance. You will likely have some forms to fill out. Make sure you take the time to complete and return the forms as the information you provide can be a huge help in helping the police and fraud investigation team from your card issuer to track down the thief and secure a prosecution.
Keep your card in a safe location (your wallet is generally a bad idea), never give out your PIN number or write it on the card, and check your statements every months. With a few simple precautions you can greatly reduce your risk of becoming a victim of credit card fraud.
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