Protecting Yourself From Credit Card Theft

shutterstock_65476939Recent theft of consumer data from big retailers like Neiman Marcus and Target has caused major concerns over data and consumer security. We like to think of these systems as secure; after all, how many times have you swiped your card to make a purchase without thinking twice?

Unfortunately, the retail industry is slow to take action. Currently, there’s no legal requirement for retailers to do anything about data breaches other than report them, and while most big retailers express interest in doing something, they are currently waiting for the banks to begin a very costly initiative to issue more secure credit cards to their account holders.
Fortunately, there are a few actions you can take to protect yourself from fraud and theft, and negate the damage if you do find your information compromised.

1.    Monitor your credit cards and bank accounts.

Do regular reviews of the charges on your credit cards and bank accounts. Look for any charges you don’t recognize. If there is a fraudulent or unauthorized charge, notify your bank or credit card issuer and have them freeze your card and issue you a new one.

2.    Use healthy passwords.

Is your password “password”? If so, this tip is for you. Create passwords that are strong and that only you would know. Include numbers and/or symbol combinations that are easy for you to remember, but hard for a thief to duplicate.

3.    Be wary of communications.

Did you get a letter, email, or communication from your bank, your Paypal account, your social media account? Verify that it’s real before you take any action. Oftentimes your bank will only contact you through certain channels, and phishing scams on social media hope to gain your password to see if it can be applied to your other accounts. Often a simple phone call to the real institution can clear up if this is an official communication or not.

4.    Do not give out your information over the phone.

Your bank, power company, and cable provider already have your info. There’s no reason for them to call and ask for it. Hang up.

5.    Sign up for notifications and monitoring.

Many banks and credit card companies provide monitoring and security notifications. If they see unusual activity they can notify you and/or freeze your card. Often, you can also set purchase limits so that an unusual amount of spending will trigger a response.

Use these methods to protect yourself against identity theft and credit card fraud. The better you shield yourself, the less likely you are to become a victim.

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