Credit cards are a convenient alternative to carrying cash. But this convenience is also fraught with risk. Every year, millions of Americans see their credit card information exposed or fall into the wrong hands. Billions of dollars are lost to identity thieves each year.
With so much commerce moving from brick and mortar stores to the internet, the role of credit cards is more relevant today than ever before. Yet, using a credit card can therefore feel like being stuck between the devil of ecommerce and the deep blue sea of identity theft.
Fortunately, losing your credit card data isn’t something destined to happen. You can keep your card secure by following a number of fairly simple steps.
Use Cash Whenever You Can
Always carry some cash with you to cover small expenses and only use your credit card for medium to large purchases. The more places you use your credit card, the greater the number of avenues you create for the loss of your credit card information.
The risk of data loss is not just around the payment process itself. The very sight of your card is a threat to your information. A fraudster could photograph your credit card with a camera phone. Only remove your card when you need to and put it away as soon as you no longer require it.
Put Cards in the Right Place
Treat your credit cards like you treat cash. When you have cash with you, you probably place it somewhere it would be difficult for a thief to take without your knowledge. Similarly, keep your cards in a wallet or purse that’s pressed against your body such that it cannot be easily snatched away.
In addition, you should move around with just one card but never more than two. The fewer the cards you carry, the better. The more cards you have with you, the greater the danger to your finances if your wallet or purse is stolen.
Destroy Any Document That Contains Your Credit Card Data
Never toss credit card statements into the trash directly. The information on your statement is a gold mine for someone who wants to exploit your card. Each statement not only has your name and credit card number but also has a history of the establishments you’ve made payments to.
An identity thief could easily impersonate you while initiating transactions that would raise the least suspicion because they are consistent with your past payments. Ergo, shred your statements before you discard them. Do the same with canceled or expired cards.
Tread Cautiously on the Internet
Don’t use your credit card on just any website. Some websites are part of an elaborate scam network and are set up solely to obtain credit card information from unsuspecting users. Others may be well meaning but because they have weak security controls, have been infiltrated by hackers thereby compromising any information on the website.
Only enter your credit card number on websites with a solid reputation and whose legitimacy you’re certain of. Don’t transact on sites that don’t run on secure HTTP (URLs beginning with HTTPS:// instead of HTTP://). Even better are websites that use PCI DSS compliance software as this demonstrates their commitment to securing customer card data during transmission and storage.
Report Stolen or Lost Credit Cards Promptly
The faster you report a stolen or misplaced credit card, the quicker the card issuer can disable it thereby blocking any fraudulent transactions. If someone steals your card, they know they have a limited time before the issuer is notified that the card is lost. As opposed to using it for one large transaction, most fraudsters will perform several relatively small payments that are less likely to arouse suspicion.
Reporting the missing card ensures you can stop the thief in their tracks before they exact too much damage. Always keep the customer support number of your card issuer close (preferably saved on your phone) so you reduce the time you require to file a report.
It’s hard to navigate today’s world without a credit or debit card. By following these tips, you can minimize the threat of fraud and theft while using your card.