8 Genius Security Tricks for Protecting Yourself From Credit Card Fraud

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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.

1. Approach ATMs with caution

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

2. Black out your CVV number

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.

3. Keep your card in sight at all times

“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 – 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.

4. Double-check account transactions

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 – 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.

5. Choose hard-to-guess PINs and passwords

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.”

6. Fake your security question responses

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.

7. Protect sensitive data on devices

But your credit and debit card data aren’t just stored on your cards – 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.”

8. Only shop online through secure retailers

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.

Stay vigilant against credit card fraud

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.

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2018!
LenderAPR RangeLoan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 6.990% APR to 14.865% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.255% APR to 12.555% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 1, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.255% APR assumes current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 4.425% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

    To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.See Consumer Licenses.
  2. Minimum Credit Score: Not all applicants who meet SoFi’s minimum credit score requirements are approved for a personal loan. In addition to meeting SoFi’s minimum eligibility criteria, applicants must also meet other credit and underwriting requirements to qualify.
  3. SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Maximum interest rate on loans for residents of AK and WY is 9.99% APR, for residents of IL with loans over $40,000 is 8.99% APR, for residents of TX is 9.99% APR on terms greater than 5 years, for residents of CO, CT, HI, VA, SC is 11.99% APR, and for residents of ME is 12.24% APR. Personal loans not available to residents of MI who already have a student loan with SoFi. Personal Loans minimum loan amount is $5,000. Residents of AZ, MA, and NH have a minimum loan amount of $10,001. Residents of KY have a minimum loan amount of $15,001. Residents of PA have a minimum loan amount of $25,001. Variable rates not available to residents of AK, TX, VA, WY, or for residents of IL for loans greater than $40,000.
  4. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.

Payoff Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.

3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.

FreedomPlus Disclosures

  1. All loans available through FreedomPlus.com are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. All loan and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions, application review, credit score, loan amount, loan term, lender approval, and credit usage and history. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. Loans are not available to residents of all states – please call a FreedomPlus representative for further details. The following limitations, in addition to others, shall apply: FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in: (i) Arizona under $10,500; (ii) Massachusetts under $6,500, (iii) Ohio under $5,500, and (iv) Georgia under $3,500. Repayment periods range from 24 to 60 months. The range of APRs on loans made available through FreedomPlus is 4.99% to a maximum of 29.99%. APR. The APR calculation includes all applicable fees, including the loan origination fee. For Example, a four year $20,000 loan with an interest rate of 15.49% and corresponding APR of 18.34% would have an estimated monthly payment of $561.60 and a total cost payable of $7,948.13. To qualify for a 4.99% APR loan, a borrower will need excellent credit on a loan of $15,000 with a term of 24 months, and qualify for at least two of the following discounts: (1) add a co-borrower who has sufficient income; (2) use at least fifty percent of the loan proceeds to directly pay off existing debt; or (3) show proof of having at least forty-thousand dollars in retirement savings – contact FreedomPlus for further details.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.

LendingPoint Disclosures

  • Loan approval is not guaranteed. Actual loan offers and loan amounts, terms and annual percentage rates (“APR”) may vary based upon LendingPoint’s proprietary scoring and underwriting system’s review of your credit, financial condition, other factors, and supporting documents or information you provide. Origination or other fees from 0% to 6% may apply depending upon your state of residence. Upon LendingPoint’s final underwriting approval to fund a loan, said funds are often sent via ACH the next non-holiday business day. LendingPoint makes loan offers from $2,000 to $25,000, at rates ranging from a low of 15.49% APR to a high of 34.49% APR, with terms from 24 to 48 months. The loan offer(s) shown reflect a 28 day payment cycle which is being offered as a courtesy as many of our customers are paid on a biweekly schedule and thus this may better align the loan payment dates with your actual income receipt schedule.

6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.

LendingClub Disclosures

All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.16% to 35.89%. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at time of application. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% and the average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months or longer.


7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Earnest does not lend in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, or Rhode Island.

8 Important Disclosures for Avant.

Avant Disclosures

* The actual rate and loan amount that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and other factors. Funds are generally deposited via ACH for delivery next business day if approved by 4:30pm CT Monday-Friday. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.

** Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33


* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

* Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification and review process. You may be asked to provide additional documents to enable us to verify your income and your identity. This rate includes an Autopay APR reduction of 0.5%. By enrolling in Autopay your payments will be automatically deducted from you bank account. Selecting Autopay is optional. Annual Percentage Rate is inclusive of a loan origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. All loans made by WebBank, member FDIC. Please refer to Upgrade’s Terms of Use and Borrower Agreement for all terms, conditions and requirements.

** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.

7.73% – 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
6.26% – 14.87%1$5,000 - $100,000Visit SoFi
6.99% – 35.97%*$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upgrade
5.99% – 24.99%2$5,000 - $35,000Visit Payoff
4.99% – 29.99%3$10,000 - $35,000Visit FreedomPlus
5.99% – 18.99%4$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
15.49% – 34.49%5$2,000 - $25,000Visit LendingPoint
6.16% – 35.89%6$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
6.99% – 18.24%7$5,000 - $75,000Visit Earnest
9.95% – 35.99%8$2,000 - $35,000Visit Avant
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.