With all the enthusiastic shopping that takes place during the holiday season, there is no shortage of thieves who want to steal your hard-earned money from you. While a lot of the problem involves packages that are stolen from people’s porches, you also have to be very careful about protecting yourself from credit and debit card fraud. It’s a terrible feeling to check your balance on a credit card and discover hundreds or thousands of dollars in charges that you had nothing to do with. It’s even worse to check your bank account balance and find that money is missing, along with the bank’s fees for insufficient funds.
Many people mistakenly think that their cards are secure now, thanks to the industry’s conversion to chip-based cards a few years ago. However, the fraud continues at an accelerating pace. So, you might be wondering, what can the typical consumer do to protect themselves? Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
For starters, using a credit card is much safer than a debit card. And while many people try to avoid running up credit card debt, the bottom line is that, when you charge a purchase, the money doesn’t come straight out of your account. Instead, you get a bill that you pay later. With debit card purchases, however, the money comes straight out of your account and you may have to wait for your bank to resolve the issue and replace the funds
Other steps you can take to protect yourself include:
Keeping your credit and debit cards secure.
The best practice is to always keep them in your wallet or purse unless you have it out for a purchase. At restaurants, this can be tricky if the server takes your card to the back to be processed, so check your statements frequently.
Protect your self from gas pump skimmers.
Before you run a card at the pump, make sure that the card reader is securely attached to the pump by giving it a light tug. Also, try to use the pumps closest to the store, which crooks usually avoid. Of course, the best way to protect yourself is to pay for your gas inside at the counter.
Be cautious with online purchases.
This is especially important if you’re using a lesser-known site. First, check to see if the URL starts with “https.” That “s” at the end stands for “secure” and if it’s missing, it could be a problem. On a secure site, you should also see a small padlock icon in front of the URL. And if you want to take it a step further, right click anywhere on the site, scroll down to “Inspect,” then click on “Security,” and you’ll see details about the website’s security status. Also, never send bank account or credit card info by email or text, whether it’s for online shopping or any other reason.
Avoid shopping when connected to public Wi-Fi.
It’s just too easy for a crook to read your signal and steel your personal information.
Use technology to stay informed.
Most banks and credit card companies allow you to check your balances and recent transactions from a smart phone. So if you have any doubts, check it immediately. You may also be able to set up an alert so that, every time a transaction is made, on either your credit or debit card, you’ll know so you can address it immediately.
It may sound like a lot, but once you get into the habit of staying safe, it doesn’t take that much time to stay on top of it. And it’s definitely worth the effort. Ask anyone who’s ever been through it before. It’s much more of a pain to clean up this kind of mess than it is to prevent it in the first place.