Last month I was subjected to an extensive fraud on one of my credit cards. It was the first time it had happened to me. But this is becoming all too common. Believe it or not, but according to recent statistics, at the rate things are going, we are all going to experience some type of identity theft or credit card fraud within the next few years. I thought I was being safe with my card, but as it turns out, there is more that you can do to protect yourself that is not promoted by your card issuer. So I’d like to share some of those tips with you so that you can perhaps avoid this painstaking experience:
Hide your 3 digit code
You know that code on the back of your card, make sure you put a sticker on it to hide it and keep the actual code in your memory. You see, in the fraud I experienced, they cloned my card and they knew my 3 digit code. By hiding that code, no one will know it or see it (when you give your card to someone to pay, they can easily see it and memorize it), so they will have a harder time to fraud on your card. Most steal card information to then go online to purchase items, but without that 3 digit code, they will not be able to process their purchase with the vast majority of online retailers. So this can definitely help you avoid potential fraud.
Pay at the pump automatically
Gas stations are the most prevalent places where credit card information is stolen. Most clerks working there are kids and they will get approached by crooks to steal your information for a fee. For these kids, the prospect of some easy cash is a good enough incentive and they do it. So whenever you go pay for gas, by handing your card over to that clerk, you are putting yourself at risk for a fraud. They can easily swipe your card into a second reader and pretend it didn’t work the first time, and they can memorize your card’s 3 digit code if not hidden like mentioned in my point above. Just like that, they have all your card’s info, they can put it on another card and then go shopping in person with a fake card with your data on it. So if you pay at the pump, your card stays with you at all times, thus vastly reducing the potential for fraud. I have started to take this habit and it has given me more confidence when I go put gas in my car. I highly recommend everyone to start doing that.
You do the swiping
Continuing from my last point, usually, you will get frauded because someone had access to your card and thus was able to clone the information from it. If you are at a restaurant, it’s common behaviour to simply hand over a credit card to a waiter or waitress, whom will then go swipe your card somewhere…but we don’t really know what they are doing with our card do we? They can very easily swipe your card’s info with a simple pocket reader without anyone noticing. My advice is to start swiping your own card. Tell them basically that you prefer to process the transaction yourself and that you are not comfortable with anyone holding your card. Trust me, if your waiter or waitress is smart and they still want a good tip, they will not be offended at all. I have noticed here in Canada that more and more, people are doing their own swiping, so hopefully this is a trend that will increase.
Check transaction logs frequently
Most people check their statements monthly. And of these people, only a concerned few will actually verify that every transaction on their statement is legit. I know this, I used to work for a credit company and you wouldn’t believe the sheer amount of carelessness people have when it comes to their statements. I guess they don’t want to look at it because it’s too depressing! In any event, looking at your statement once a month is no longer enough. You need to check your account every couple of days online. Make sure that everything is in order, especially with an account or a card that is used frequently. This is how I was able to put a quick stop to the fraud that happened to me last month. I was able to block the card immediately and put a stop to it right away. Imagine if I had waited 3 more weeks to receive my statement. I would have had way more fraud, way less time to dispute them, and way less credit available in the mean time. So make sure you watch your account like a hawk.
Use cards less frequently
At the end of the day, it’s all a numbers game. The more you use a credit card, the more you are exposing yourself to fraud. By keeping some cash on you for small expenses such as going to the corner store or going for a quick bite to eat at the restaurant, you reduce the exposure of your card to other people that can potentially steal your information. In this day in age, it is much easier for someone to steal your credit card information than it is for them to steal your cash. For such small ticket items, I don’t think it’s worth the risk of using your credit card.
Although you are refunded mostly for any fraud on your credit card, this can open you to identity theft, where the crooks will use your credit card info to open new credit accounts under your name, without you ever finding out about it…until it’s time to pay up! This is why I feel that preventing credit card fraud deters more serious problems such as having your identity stolen. Remember that it can happen to anyone, anytime, so hopefully these tips will help protect you from having to experience any credit card or identity fraud.