Many people don’t understand how fraudulent charges range from as little as $7.19 from some odd electronics store to $655.38 at some store in Russia while you reside in North America. We tend to think that this may have happened because we used our cards to pay for parking at random locations or for public transportation.
As it is easier and quicker to use credit cards, it has also become riskier these days as attackers can gain your identity and credit/debit card information to make purchases. Often times these attackers make money by selling items on eBay or Craigslist that were purchased with your card. Being proactive to secure your credit and debit cards is, therefore, critical.
Stories of companies, both large and small, becoming targets of data breaches hit the news every day. We’ve all heard about the massive data breach of Target’s Point-of-Sale System, which occurred around “Black Friday” back in 2013 and affected roughly 40,000 card devices. Attackers are usually able to gain customer names, credit card/debit card numbers, card expiration dates, and CVV codes when data breaches occur. Customer data, like yours and mine, is put at risk when this happens.
As we, the general public, cannot prevent attackers from hacking into these systems to retrieve credit and debit card information, it is very important to take proactive steps to safeguard your wallet and prevent your payment cards from getting compromised.
Here’s how you can stay secure while shopping with your credit/debit cards:
1. Use newer Technology
Many new security-related features get introduced every day. Mobile payment apps like Apple Pay and Android Pay have been introduced in the past couple of years and are now used widely across the nation. Both use biometrics in the form of fingerprints to pay for goods and services in retail stores via a tokenization method.
2. Chip-Embedded cards
Swiping and dipping are two ways you may use your cards while shopping in-person. You should always use your chip to pay where it is an option. Chip-payments are more secure than traditional magnetic strips because they use hard-to-guess security codes that change with every purchase, thereby making it more difficult to counterfeit.
If you have yet to receive your chip-embedded card, you should contact your financial institution for a replacement chip card.
3. Light Wallet
We often keep several unused cards in our wallet. Everyone should check and clean their wallet every few weeks and remove any unwanted and unused credit/debit cards and destroy them safely. You should also destroy cards that are not chip embedded.
I also recommend using a different card for your in-store purchases versus online shopping. If one card gets compromised, you still have visibility over the other.
4. Hard-to-guess PIN
Avoid using your birthday or Social Security number as your PIN as it may get compromised easily. Furthermore, you should always cover your hands when entering your PIN to prevent the person next to you from seeing it.
People tend to forget to sign the back of their credit or debit cards. It is always best practice to sign the back of your cards as many merchants do match signature while making big transactions at retail stores.
6. Account Security
You should visit your online account for each card and tighten security measures. You can set notifications where you will get notified via email(s) or text messages for each transaction that goes over a certain limit.
You can also set an option to lock your card if purchases are made above a certain amount in less than 24 hours. You should also set up complex, hard-to-guess combination password(s) for your financial accounts and change them regularly. You should never use the same password for multiple accounts as it will put you at high risk if one account gets compromised.
7. Avoid Public Wi-Fi
You should never use public computers or hotel Wi-Fi to log into your financial accounts or to pay for your online purchases. You should wait until you have a secure network connection. You will be surprised to find that most hotels’ Wi-Fi is an open connection and does not use end-to-end encryption. Anyone can retrieve the information you enter in your smartphone, tablets, or laptops while using public Wi-Fi.
8. Trusted Links
Many of you may have received phone calls from relatives to express their happiness of winning the “Nigerian Lottery” or a $500 gift card. When you wonder and ask them how, they mention that they received an email and clicked on a link to claim.
If you are someone who received this call from a relative, you should educate them of the dangers of unsolicited messages like these. Tell them not to click on these links as it may contain spyware and viruses. The best solution is to simply delete the email.
You should only open emails and links that you know are sent from known persons or entities.
9. Review Statements
When you make many purchases at different places, you tend to get lazy and forget to review transactions on your bank statements.
I have found many times that I was overcharged at some restaurants or I did not get my full refund on returning damaged merchandise. Therefore, you should always check your receipts against your statements every week.
If you see a charge that was not made by you, you should contact your credit card company immediately. Based on Federal Trade Commission guidelines, you have 60 days after a questionable charge has occurred to notify your credit card company. The credit card company then needs to resolve your issues within two billing cycles.
10. Shred Everything
If you were thinking about buying a shredder but haven’t yet, you should make that purchase as soon as possible.
Shredding everything is the best way to keep yourself secure from identity theft. You should shred everything that contains your full name, address, phone number, and any sensitive data. This will make it lot harder for someone to find any information about you, and it will help to keep you protected from being the next victim of a credit card breach.