How to protect yourself from credit card fraud

Credit card fraud is a very real danger for anyone who pays with plastic, anywhere, and it’s not just your credit you need to be careful of protecting, but also the details of your ATM or EFTPOS card as well. As technology advances there will still always be people ready to exploit these advances, and if you are enjoying the ease of use and the added security features of your new credit card, you need to be aware that scammers can still fraudulently gain access to your account details and spend up big on your card, shred your credit rating or take on your whole identity.

That is why you need to know about the credit card scams which are out there, so you can be on the lookout. Plus, by implementing ways to protect yourself from these scams, you are also putting in place security measures which will serve to protect you from future scams and fraudulent activity.

1 – Skimming

Credit card skimming is done by copying the information from the magnetic strip on your credit card with a hand-held or installed device. Skimming can be done with an easily concealed hand-held device in restaurants or taxis for example, anywhere where your credit card leaves your hands and your sight for just a short amount of time. Alternatively skimming machines can be fraudulently connected to ATM machines and steal the information of everyone who uses that machine.

Also be wary if you are asked to swipe your card more than once because some scammers will aim to steal your details with a skimming machine, even if you don’t surrender your card at any point. The credit card details are then used to create fake credit cards and thousands of dollars can be spent on your account before you realize.

To avoid being a victim of a credit card skimming scam, do not share your ATM or credit card PIN with anyone, as PIN security is becoming more prevalent and can be a deterrent to skimmers. Also make sure to check your account balances regularly for unusual transactions and if you see a charge you don’t remember making, contact your financial institution right away, because the sooner you report the fraud, the greater the chance of your bank or credit union being able to refund you the amount.

In most cases it is unnecessary for your card to leave your sight when you pay, and if it looks like the person processing the payment is going to remove your card, ask them if it is really necessary. Plus, when you use an ATM the entire area around the swipe or insert pad should be clear, so make sure you check for anything which looks like it has been attached and is out of place.

2 – Phishing

Phishing is the name for those annoying emails – and sometimes even text messages – you are sent, asking for your bank details. While you may wonder how anyone could fall victim to such a well-known credit card scam, some of these communications can look quite genuine, and if the email is purporting to be from the provider you actually have an account with, it can be easy to forget your standard online security measures.

A phishing email can look so genuine because they are often sent from an address which looks to be real. This is because the scammers have built websites which look very similar to the bank or financial institution they are impersonating, so that when you click through the details of the email, it appears to be genuine. The email will often also mimic the format your bank uses and include their logo.

To spot a credit card scam email, you may notice that the ‘bank’ hasn’t used your name or has spelt your name wrong, the email may also include grammatical or typographical errors. The biggest giveaway should be that the email asks for your account numbers or passwords to verify your account, sometimes even dangling the carrot of a refund to your account. However, don’t be fooled because your bank will never email you asking for these details – they already have them.

Therefore, make sure you delete any suspicious emails right away, and don’t be tempted to follow links, reply or call the numbers in the email. Also, when you do access your accounts online, make sure you type the address directly into your browser.

3 – Lost cards

We’ve all misplaced our keys, our glasses, our umbrella…so if you find you have lost your wallet or your credit card you’re likely to be more annoyed than surprised. However, you also need to be very vigilant because while you can easily leave your credit card on the counter after signing for a purchase or forget to take your ATM card out of the machine after withdrawing cash, you may also be targeted by a credit card thief.

What you may be surprised by is how much spending can be done on your card before you even notice it is gone as thieves can forge your signature, guess your PIN or simply rely on inattentive shop assistants to use your card right there in the same shopping precinct you have been targeted. However, even more damaging to your credit card balance, fraudsters can take your credit card and use it for online purchases where no signature is required.

To avoid being the victim of lost credit card fraud, don’t carry more cards than you need – take with you only what you need in your wallet for that day. Also make sure you guard your wallet or bag, especially in high traffic areas at busy times such as Christmas. If you do notice you have lost your card or wallet, report it straight away to stop any fraudulent payments being made because even if someone doesn’t intentionally target you for credit card theft, if your card is found lying around, it doesn’t take a professional credit card scammer to use your card fraudulently.

4 – Stolen mail

All of those pre-approved credit card offers you receive can be more dangerous than just allowing you access to more credit. If a credit card scammer targets your letter box, they can confirm these offers and have the new cards sent to them for use and you wouldn’t notice because the card is not with a provider you already have an account with. The details on your credit card and bank account statements are also often enough for a scammer to access your account to make purchases online, or even guess your passwords and order a new card on your account for themselves.

Therefore, make sure you lock your letter box and take your mail out as soon as it is delivered – if you’re going to be away or working late, have a neighbor collect it for you. also make sure to check your bank account statements regularly to help you spot any fraudulent transactions, but this isn’t always enough to protect your form mail fraud. In addition you should regularly check your credit report to make sure your identity has not been used to run up huge credit bills. Also, if you notice you haven’t received a statement in awhile, contact your provider and have them check your account for unauthorized access.

5 – Online

Online banking can save you time and money as you pay your bills or manage your accounts, but you shouldn’t become complacent with this ease of use and forget to employ your online security protocols.

For example, if you are logging into a Wi-Fi network at a cafe, restaurant or library, ask for the exact name of the network because scammers can create Wi-Fi networks with very similar names to the real network and once you log into the fake network and check your account balances and enter your passwords, the scammers can steal all of this information.

Also try and avoid logging into your bank account on a public computer because while the necessary firewalls and protection software may appear to be in place, you can never be sure that the computer hasn’t been tampered with by hackers to install a keystroke stealing program or to track your history and create cookies of your use.

When doing your banking online anywhere make sure you are logging into a secure site which has https:// in the address bar as that ‘s’ means you are secure. Also type your financial institution’s website directly into the address bar rather than following a link in an email. You can also look for a provider who offers a double layer or security where you are SMSed a second PIN to enter, you are issued a DigiPass with your account or you use your mouse to enter the password so your keystrokes can’t be tracked.

Alban is a personal finance writer at Home Loan Finder, a home loan comparison website.

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3 Comment

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cliff Torrence, Mark Meissner. Mark Meissner said: How to protect yourself from credit card fraud …. http://bit.ly/aq3KTZ […]

  2. We wrote about an offline “phishing” scam in Indiana, that surely will be all over before you know it, if it works. ( http://www.creditcardscanada.ca/blog/credit-card-tips/scam-alert-are-fake-credit-card-statements-on-the-way/ ) Just like those phishing emails, these statements look so real. Just like the online phishing scams, these were calculated to elicit a reaction (people would act with emotion before thinking of the consequences).

  3. Some of those phishing emails look very close to real. My father had an experience on eBay using Western Union instead of Paypal. The killer thing with Western Union is that there isnt much recourse to get your money back if you have been scammed.

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