“It won’t happen to me.” You have probably told yourself this a million times, but have you ever sat down and thought, “what if this does actually happen…?” If you haven’t, you should, because the chances increase on the daily. Hackers are getting smarter and working nonstop to get your information and money from you, and that is why no one is really able to say it will never happen to me, because we can’t predict the future. One thing is for certain: multiple people have said this exact statement about credit card fraud. It could happen to you, so you need to do what you can to make sure you’re as well-protected as possible. In this series of articles, we’ll be discussing many types of fraud and/or identity theft. Today, we start with credit cards.
Article 1: Credit Card Fraud
Credit cards are great for many obvious reasons, but they can also easily expose you to having your account or identity compromised leading to headaches and life-altering problems. The convenience offered goes hand in hand with the potential risks.
Have you ever had your credit card hacked or stolen? It’s scary and can sometimes make you feel as though your life has been violated. Not only that, but it also can make you second guess what you’ve done and how you’ve acted in the past to cause this.
How did it happen? No one can ever be entirely sure, but there are multiple steps and actions that can be taken to prevent a second occurrence from happening. You may think your card is safe on your person in one way or another, but that’s not always the case.
There are some situations that are more vulnerable. Whether or not this has happened to you in the past, it’s always a possibility for the future, so let’s jump right in so you can be as well-informed as possible!
There are five main ways to see if your credit card got hacked. Be in-the-know, here are the five ways, as noted from Experian, that you can tell if your card has been hacked:
- You notice strange purchases
- You notice small charges on your account
- You have unfamiliar company names on your statement
- You see payments in other locations
- A lower available credit balance
Now that you know how to tell if your credit card got hacked, these are some tips on what you can do to help prevent credit card fraud from happening to you and things to be cognizant of while going about your daily life:
What is RFID? As stated by the FDA, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), is a wireless system made up of two components – tags and readers. The reader component has at least one, if not more, antennae that emits radio waves to catch signals from the RFID tag. The tag also uses radio waves but, in this aspect,, they communicate their identity and other information to a reader or readers that are in close proximity, either active or passive.
Hackers can use RFID devices to grab your credit card information from afar, even if it’s still physically on your person. Some companies have been making RFID wallets that prevent the signals to be passed back and forth through the tags and readers. If you travel frequently, it may be a smart investment. With the high volume of traffic in and out of airports, this is a higher likelihood location for RFID to be used to grab your credit card information. By traveling with an RFID wallet, you may protect yourself from having anything compromised.
2. Online Shopping
The world of online shopping offers up many possibilities: unique products, access to small businesses and convenience, but it also offers up possible fraud. Online shopping may be one of the most susceptible locations for fraud. First, if you find yourself on a site that seems shady or skeptical in some way, just don’t do it. If the site doesn’t look reputable, get off as soon as possible. Personally, if I’m on a site that isn’t “https://,” I don’t always trust it. There are online destinations that are safe to shop; however, if you choose to shop online, just know to be extra cautious. Some secure sites may get compromised, but it’s a safer route if you’re trying your best to avoid fraud or identity theft. It’s not recommended to do any online shopping with a debit card because that is linked to your bank account, which has a lot more tendencies to get hacked and cause even more information to get leaked leading to bigger problems.
The FBI touches upon all of these and then some on their website. They consider Credit Card Fraud a “Common Scam and Crime,” so see what else they suggest for online shopping and more.
On top of everything, use your best judgment: most of the time when people get their information compromised, it’s because they let their guard down. Stay alert and trust your gut: it’s right the majority of the time.
3. Bank/Credit Card Verification
Now, if you receive a phone call that claims to be your credit card company or bank, but something doesn’t seem right, there’s a high probability that this is fraudulent. Many card companies or banks will have disclosures about what they would/would not ask for. If the person on the other end of the phone is asking for something you aren’t sure seems right, it likely isn’t.
Some websites will have some form of information on what to do if you feel like you’re being scammed. Depending on your bank or card company, there may be slightly different privacy options or availabilities. Check your company to see what they have to offer or what they suggest you do if you feel you’ve fallen victim to a scam, or something seems suspicious. The best way to find this information is go to the website of your credit card company or bank and read the privacy notice and security information. Keep yourself well-informed.
Hackers are getting more and more sly and have started copying the actual number or something extremely similar to the real thing. Phishing, as defined on sites such as Capital One, is defined as something that “occurs when a fraudster sends an email message appearing to be from a legitimate entity. The email is designed to trick users into providing personal information like credit card information, Social Security numbers, and login credentials.”
Practice extra caution on these phone calls. If something is bothering you, simply say it’s not a good time or something came up, you will call them back when you have the time. When you hang up this call, immediately contact your credit card company or bank and inform them of what happened, and they’ll be able to tell you if it is legitimate or not. If it’s fraudulent, they’ll be able to alert other customers to stay alert, so no one falls victim to the scam.
Some companies use the same number repeatedly, so save it in your phone so you know what’s real and what’s not. The bottom line here is that if someone calls you asking for information over the phone that seems sketchy or like something that shouldn’t be given over the phone, chances are it shouldn’t and they’re trying to dupe you. Get off the call immediately and alert the real bank or credit card company that you use and they can cancel your current account and help you open another one quickly and efficiently just in case something was in fact compromised.
Many credit card companies, if not all of them, allow you to set up alerts when your card is charged. This provides you the opportunity to allow or deny a charge via text, alert or email. You can argue a charge placed on your card if it wasn’t you. There are different thresholds that you can set for these alerts, but to be the safest, it is probably best to set it as low as possible just to ensure that nothing gets by you. These alerts can be a saving grace, especially when you forget what something is. Most alerts will tell you the full amount that was charged and what company it was charged to so you can keep track. The alerts come in almost instantaneously so there’s no denying if it was you or not. Online logins have a different threshold than mobile, so explore both avenues to make sure you can drop it as low as possible.
Another alert that might be beneficial would be international alerts. Some credit card companies offer alerts that show any charges that occurred internationally. This would be extremely beneficial because some of the worst credit card fraud occurs internationally. Some retail sites, as mentioned, may be slightly questionable and if you mistakenly order something, your card may be compromised and can be used internationally because most of those “sketchy” sites aren’t within the US. Anyone can gain access to your card, so being sure to get those alerts would be a great addition to your fraud protection.
Different companies may have multiple options for alerts, so dive into what your card offers and what would be the best for you personally. Any alerts you can set are recommended. It can really help in the long run and help keep you protected in as many ways as possible.
5. Paperless Billing
In a world where technology is omnipresent, why not bring everything into the digital age? One way to protect your information is to go paperless. Paperless billing not only saves the environment by using less paper, but it also helps better protect important personal information.
When you utilize paper statements/billing, there is a lot of personal information on the statement. While this is may or may not be true for all statements, it’s definitely a possibility. When you toss this information into the trash, there’s a higher probability that you’re making yourself vulnerable to identity theft as well as opening your card/bank information to possible compromise. If you shred these statements before tossing them, this will help, but the safest way to go about it all is to move to paperless and just get everything online. Yes, online accounts can also be compromised; however, if you’re diligent in creating passwords and keeping them updated and changing them every so often, it will definitely be helpful.
6. Diligent Checking
While people differ, on average, checking your account 2-3 times per week is recommended. By keeping tabs on your account(s), you can track spending and see if there’s anything that doesn’t align with what you know you’ve spent. Constant alerts to charges or purchases made will help; however, as with most things, there’s a chance that some things may slide under the radar based on the threshold set for these alerts. Keeping a constant eye on things will really help ease your mind and provide you ample opportunities to ensure that things are staying normal on your account. As soon as you notice something that is unusual, you should immediately contact your bank or credit card company and get things taken care of. If you wait too long, there’s a chance that there won’t be anything they can do for you.
When monitoring your bank statements, balancing your checkbook is common and good practice, but again, you may miss a few things here or there. By keeping an eye on your account, you’ll be able to see if your balance drops too low, and if so, what the charges were that caused it to happen. It could be forgotten automatic withdrawals, or it could be a completely unknown charge that wasn’t initiated by anyone who has access to the account. By checking constantly, you can make sure all is well within your account and nothing crazy is going on.
While these are the most important steps to take to ensure your safety and protection, check out these little tips from Experian to give yourselves even more a sense of security:
- Always keep your wallet or purse secure to protect your credit cards from theft.
- Only carry the credit cards you actually need and use, and never carry your Social Security card on your person.
- Explore Experian’s fraud and identity theft resource center online to learn about preventing fraud.