Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Credit card fraud is massive, with an estimated $4 billion hacked in the U.S. alone during 2016. Meanwhile, it’s estimated that 41 million American adults have had their identity stolen.
You don’t want to be part of that statistic.
So how can you avoid it? Well, you can be proactive and prevent hackers from targeting your credit card. In fact, it’s pretty simple to do.
Set Up Notifications and Alerts on Your Card
You should check whether notifications are available for all of your financial accounts. These are alerts that you can set up to email or send an SMS when a transaction is made. They can also be configured to confirm your next monthly repayment and let you know if the credit limit has been exceeded.
All modern accounts, personal and business, offer this feature. Simply contact your bank or log in online to find the option to set this feature up.
The benefit is clear: if your card has been hacked or cloned and is being used, you’ll receive instant notification. All that is left to do is to contact the lender, and inform them of the breach. Your credit card company should then put a block on the card, and often they will refund the fraudulent transaction.
Got a problem with your bank or card company setting these notifications up? Well, first, consider switching to a modern account provider. In the meantime, however, you can subscribe to a credit checking service, which will also offer notifications and alerts for all of your accounts.
Use Mobile Payment and Leave Your Card at Home
Apple Pay, Android Pay, and similar smartphone-based payment services will let you use your phone instead of a card to make contactless payments.
This is done by using the phone’s camera to scan your credit cards, with the data then “read” by the app and stored. Heading out to a shop without your card in your wallet is now possible. Just hold the phone close to the contactless payment point, and the item is purchased. It’s that simple, and keeps your card safe from scammers. Just be sure to keep the original under lock and key.
Concerned whether Apple Pay is actually safe? It’s not perfect, but it at least gives you the option of shopping without your card. And if your phone gets stolen, you can remotely delete your card data.
Use a Secure RFID-Blocking Physical Wallet
If you really have to take your credit card with you, consider its value, and act accordingly. Modern cards are equipped with RFID and NFC technology. This facilitates the fashion for contactless payments for credit and bank debit cards.
The risks to your credit card balance from RFID technology has been reported at length in the popular press. Briefly, scammers have the opportunity to capture payments using portable RFID devices. Without knowing it, you could be transferring money from your credit card as a “payment” to someone stood close by.
While it’s difficult to physically stop this form of contactless pick-pocketing, you can take steps. Although wrapping your card in tinfoil or using an Altoids tin as a wallet are both options, a dedicated RFID-blocking card wallet is the better solution. Many are available, and they’re affordable and compact enough to slip into your pocket.
Meanwhile, if you’re using a contactless card, make sure you set an appropriate payment limit with your credit card company. And if you would prefer to disable this feature, you should be able to, or at least set it to the minimum value.
Employ Strong and Secure Online Passwords
It’s an annual event. Some security research lands in my email inbox revealing that the most popular password in the world is “password.” This is probably part double-bluff, part bad memory.
People, you need to wake up: scammers are smarter than you. It’s their job to be smarter than you, and to empty your pockets without you seeing them. This is what they do for a living — stop underestimating them!
This is why your online banking and credit accounts need to have water tight passwords. No doubt two-factor authentication (2FA) is in use, perhaps with an access code sent to your smartphone or email account. Either way, you need to accompany this with a strong password to make doubly sure.
Perhaps the best way to do this is to consider our tips for the creation of a strong password. Alternatively, install a password manager and use this to do the heavy lifting of creating and remembering passwords. You’ll just need to remember the app’s master password.
Never Let Your Credit Card Out of Your Sight
Cloning cards is a big business for scammers. It’s a technique that copies all of the data from your card and saves it as data, ready to be written to a blank card. This can then be used to siphon money from your credit account, or in the case of debit cards, your bank account. Or the data can be used to purchase items online.
At one time, cloned cards was considered a massive risk… and then it died down. But fraudsters are still cloning credit cards to hack accounts. So how can you stop this from happening?
Well, it’s getting more difficult. We’ve already looked at the risks of RFID, which can take a payment from your card while it’s in your pocket. With credit card cloning, the data is read by a skimmer, a compact device that can be hidden in the palm of a hand or pocket. In a situation when you would normally hand your credit card over to a waiter or waitress, this is the moment when your trust can be abused. While they “go and fetch the card machine,” they can clone your details.
To avoid this, simply make sure you don’t let the card out of your sight. If the credit card machine is elsewhere in the restaurant, keep hold of your card and wait.
Only Shop via Trusted and Secure Online Stores
“HTTPS” — five letters that show you that the website you’re carrying out a transaction on is safe and secure. Whether you’re online banking, using a digital payment service or making a payment via credit card, the URL (or address) of the website you’re using should begin HTTPS.
This indicates that the transaction is taking place over a secure, encrypted connection. It doesn’t get safer than this for online payments.
If the store or bank you’re using doesn’t offer HTTPS, don’t spend any money. There could be several things going on here, all of them bad. It could be a spoof site, set up to look like the real thing and persuade you to part with your hard-earned cash. Or it might be an untrustworthy website, aiming to take your money and run.
Avoiding these unfortunate scenarios is simple: stick to services offering HTTPS. Google is encouraging websites to do this, for the sake of online financial safety, but you can go one better and only shop with stores you know are trustworthy.
It’s Your Card: Stay in Control!
To keep your finances within your control, you need to make sure no one else has access to them. If you want to avoid having your credit card hacked:
- Embrace notifications and alerts. Use those provided by your credit card, by trusted third party financial apps, and credit monitoring services.
- Buy an RFID-blocking wallet to store your credit cards.
- Alternatively, add your card to your preferred mobile payment service and leave the card at home.
- Set strong and secure passwords for your online banking.
- Don’t let cashiers and waiting staff walk off with your card.
You don’t want to become a statistic. Don’t be a victim of credit card fraud. Be smart, and take the precautions to avoid it proactively, rather than reactively after the event.
Image Credit: Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley via Shutterstock.com