If you are like most American's you have a piece of plastic in your wallet. This piece of plastic is a very dangerous tool to your financial well-being. If you have not figured out what I am referring to, I am talking about a debit/credit card! Too many American's have a credit card. There are a number of reasons why a credit card is bad, but among the two biggest reasons are:
By using a debit/credit card, you tend to spend a significantly larger sum of money and not paying off the debt. The second reason is that it is easy for others to acquire your information and spend YOUR money!
According to Nasdaq.com, the United States of America is the country with the highest card fraud activity. According to creditcards.com and many other websites, 2017 was the worst year yet for data breaches. A "data breach" is when an individual, or group, accesses a company's personal files without permission. This kind of activity is how card information is typically acquired by harmful parties. If you are curious as to if there is anything that you can to protect yourself and your information, the answer is YES.
How to Protect Yourself from Card Fraud:
Protect Your Bank Account Number(s).
In today's day-in-age, telemarketers and "spam" callers seem to call more frequently than they used to. It is very important that, no matter much they beg, lie, and threaten you, that you do NOT tell them your card number or banking information. It is a great rule of thumb to never announce any kind of banking information over the phone unless YOU make the phone call to the opposite party. Even so, still do not release the information to them until you confirm that they are a credible source. If you would like to research the company, simply go online and read customer reviews and interactions with the company in question!
Never Save Your Card Information On A Website.
If you all are like me, I shop on Amazon and other e-commerce stores. Just imagine this for a moment. Imagine if someone were to breach Amazon's database where card information is held. How many credit/debit cards would they have access to? Millions! Even if the person who breached the database would not be able to use all of the cards, they may sell your information to another party. No matter how secure a website may seem, it is never a good idea to store card (or banking) information on a website.
Check Your Bank Statements and Balance Your Checkbook.
To many, balancing a checkbook is a thing of the past. However, for anyone wanting to stay secure, this is a MUST. You should always check your bank statement every month and verify that the transactions made were yours and that no errors were made. I cannot count on one hand the amount of times that a business had accidentally charged me for a product twice. The only way that I discovered this mistake was by reviewing my bank statement. You can also use your bank statement to check for any irregular purchases in areas where you have not traveled during the time period in question. As you MAKE the purchases, record them in your checkbook. At least save all of your receipts and write them into your checkbook at your earliest convenience. At the end of the month, total all your deposits and withdrawals and then compare them to what the bank statement says. This is the BEST way to check to see if someone else is using your card and/or bank account.
Notify the Issuer of Your Card if You Intend to Travel.
As mentioned above, the use of a card in an area where you have not been is a huge red flag for fraud. Therefore, it is always a good idea to notify the issuer of your card so that your card activity does not seem suspicious.
Check Your Bills Early and Often.
Check your bills to make sure the amount charged to your card coincides with what your checkbook says you have spent. It is also a great way to make sure that somebody else has not purchased *insert item here* in your name and left you with the payments.
Never Sign A Blank Receipt!
You never know what somebody will print on the blank receipt after it is signed. Make a mark on the receipt above the "Signature" line to ensure your safety.
Never Carry All of Your Cards at the Same Time.
If somebody steals your purse and/or your wallet, you would not like the theft to have access to a single credit card, nonetheless all of them. Be smart about your card carrying!
Never Tell Your PIN Numbers to Anyone.
Do not share your Personal Identification Number with anyone. In doing so, they will have easier access to using your card. Protect yourself from whoever you can.
Now that you have a better idea of how to protect yourself, you may be wondering what to do if your information IS stolen and used by another party. Here is what you should do.
What to Do if Your Information is Stolen.
Contact the Issuer of Your Card.
Call your bank, or whoever has issued the card(s) that have been compromised. By doing so, the issuer will be able to "freeze" or cancel your card in order to prevent any further purchases. They can also provide a list of recent transactions made by using the card.
Contact Your Bank.
This is important for compromised bank accounts and debit cards. If there was a purchase that was made using your bank account, that you did not authorize, you can file a dispute. There will be some forms for you to fill out and sign formally stating that you did authorize the transactions in question. Many times, a bank can reimburse for these issues or can withhold your payment from going through to the other party.
Change All PIN and Passwords.
This is a great way to prevent others from having access to your accounts.
File a Police Report.
Anytime somebody uses your card without your permission, it is a form of identity theft and should be treated as such. This behavior is illegal. You would like to protect yourself from this happening, not only to yourself, but to others in the future. People who steal the identities of others should be behind bars.
File a Report Directly With the Federal Trade Commission.
According to creditcards.com, "First, you will need to file a police report. Then, submit the police report along with the Identity Theft Affidavit to the FTC’s Complaint Assistant. After completing the report, you will be given a complaint reference number that you can use to update information at any time. "
While card fraud can be a scary thing, there are things that can be done to lessen the possibility of this happening to you! If this DOES happen to you, do not panic. Keep your head on straight and tackle the problem one step at a time. Bankers and credit bureaus know that this is very stressful for you and will often do what they can to make the situation right again with little stress to you. Just stay positive and compliant and all will be well soon!