In 2013, 40 million Black Friday and holiday shoppers were shocked to find that their credit card information was breached after they shopped at mega-store chain Target.
Those affected by the breach didn’t just have their credit card numbers sold either. They also had their personal info like birthdays and addresses distributed online.
Unfortunately, the Target credit card breach isn’t an isolated case. Credit card safety has become a huge concern for every shopper as cases of fraud become more and more frequent.
So, before you swipe, it’s important to know these credit card safety tips.
How to boost your credit card safety online
1. Know the website before purchasing
We love living in an age when nearly every business offers online shopping. However, websites offering super-low priced deals may not be the best places to shop.
Before you fill up that shopping cart, investigate every consumer site you’re using. Google real reviews and check their details to be sure they’re legit. Talk to friends to see if they’ve ever used the site before. Or, simply purchase that product from a site you trust.
Keep in mind that smaller stores or new shops, may not have the ability to provide their shoppers with the best customer support if credit card info is stolen. Or, if you have to dispute a charge made by someone else using your credit card.
2. Shop securely
There is one big rule of credit card safety online that everyone should know and learn: thou shalt not shop unless the web address begins with “https.”
“The ‘s’ at the end means the site is encrypting your credit card info before sending it out across the web to complete the transaction,” explains Dean Mauro of Financial Scrapbook.
If that’s the first rule of credit card safety, the second is even more important — don’t shop while using a public WIFI. Even though it may be convenient to do some online shopping while using a Starbucks WIFI connection, there’s an important reason no to.
“These Wi-Fi spots can be ‘spoofed’ so that the hotspot you’re using appears to be from the coffee shop but is instead being run by a scammer who is close by,” says Adam Jusko of Credit Card Catalog. “Once you’re on the scammer’s hotspot, any of your information can be stolen easily.”
3. Don’t store your info
Convenience can be equally as dangerous as coffee shop impulse buys.
So many websites (and even your phone or computer settings) now offer to store your information for you. This makes it a lot easier for your credit card info to pop up with a click of a button or a few numbers of your card.
However, not only could you find yourself overspending, but you may also be giving thieves easier access to your info. As we all know, phones and computers can be easily stolen. And without heavy password protection, you’re basically giving them a free, instant shopping pass.
Credit card safety during everyday use
4. Yes, you should sign your card
If you’re really serious about credit card safety, you should sign the back of your credit card as soon as you get it.
There are a few reasons behind this. First, your signature is yours. It’s unique. If there is a question about an item you didn’t sign off for, you can literally show them your signature as proof.
Secondly, your card clearly says “Not Valid Unless Signed.” While the majority of merchants won’t check, you really don’t want to get caught with an invalid card.
5. Don’t broadcast your codes
If you’re concerned with how to keep your credit card safe, you should be extra guarded in sharing your information.
This doesn’t just involve telling a random merchant your card number while in line at the grocery store. It also includes a warning against texting your spouse or family member your pin number.
Like we said, cards, phones, computers can all be stolen. But breakups, fights, and strangers with good hearing can also mean a leak of your important information.
6. Learn how to spot third-party scanners
Credit card skimming is an overlooked credit card safety issue. However, it’s a scam that’s pretty easy to pull off, especially if you’re targeting people in a rush or not looking closely.
“Look for signs of tampering like loose parts on the keypad or a camera looking down on the console,” says Robert Siciliano, Identity Theft Expert, and CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com. “Conceal the keypad with your other hand when you enter your PIN.”
Siciliano also says to keep in mind that “a skimmer can also use a handheld device and skim your card right in his hand.”
7. Utilize new technology
Because of all the credit card safety complaints and reports of fraud, credit card companies and stores are always on the lookout to protect you at the checkout.
For example, chip cards are starting to become the norm (and are considered to be more secure than ones without them). If you’re still using a card without a chip, contact your bank and have them ship you one ASAP.
While further studies are needed to determine this claim, virtual wallets (such as Google Wallet or Apple Pay) can also be safer than traditional cards. That’s because they’re harder to lose and the companies do not send as much sensitive information as using your card at a checkout.
You can also protect your wallet by putting in a passcode or using an app that will allow you to wipe your phone if it’s stolen.
Monitor for fraud for extra security
8. Opt-out of automatic approvals
It may sound old-school, but credit card scammers still use your mail to get your information.
Think about all the pre-approved credit card offers you get in the mail. A savvy thief already has your address and name to get access to a new card.
You can stop credit card offers being sent to you by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT. This will take you off mailing lists for five years. You can also make it permanent by visiting going online and requesting a Permanent Opt-Out Election form.
9. Be regularly vigilant
Credit card users should understand their own role in increasing credit card safety.
“Set a date every month that you religiously reconcile your charges and look carefully at your statement [so that it] coincides with the date the statement is available to save and download,” suggests Alexis Moore, Identity Theft and Cybercrime Expert at AlexisMoore.com.
Always keep your credit card safe
Credit card safety isn’t just for those who are new to using credit cards. It’s easy for many of us to forget these basic credit card safety tips, even after years of being cardholders.
However, by protecting yourself, your wallet, and your information, as well as being mindful of how and where you purchase, you can be sure your shopping cart will be good to go.
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