As consumers have turned to online shopping and banking during the pandemic, already high levels of credit card fraud have spiked. Let’s take a look at some common sense credit card security steps.

STAYING SHARP: CREDIT CARD SECURITY TO KEEP YOU SAFE

Americans rely heavily on their credit cards—and criminals love it. Credit card fraud was already soaring before the pandemic, and has only gotten worse as consumers have embraced more online shopping and banking tools. Let’s take a look at some simple steps that will help keep what’s in your wallet in your own pocket.

FRAUDSTER’S PARADISE

Research by American Express shows that more than half of American consumers experienced a fraudulent attempt to use a credit card or payment information in 2019. This figure appears only to have increased over the course of the pandemic, with the instances of credit card fraud reported to the FTC increasing by 44.6% from 2019 to 2020.

Reports also suggest credit card fraud is changing, with losses due to card skimming, theft, or fraudulent ATM transactions falling. Instead, industry research group Nilson Report reports the rapid growth in online “card-not-present” transactions during the pandemic has made it easier for criminals to steal personally identifiable information.

That means credit card fraud is now synonymous with identity theft, and more fraud is being committed using new card accounts opened by using stolen personal information.

9 STEPS TO GREAT CREDIT CARD SECURITY

All this makes it more important than ever to safeguard your personal information, especially during online transactions. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take that will dramatically increase the security of your credit card information.

1. SET A SECURE, UNIQUE PASSWORD AND PIN

This seems simple, but so few people do it right. Make sure you set a complex, unique and unrelated password for every online account you have. It’s worth investing in a password manager like Keeper or LastPass to help you generate and store complex passwords. Make sure your pin is not a simple sequence or related to other personal information.

2. USE TWO-STEP AUTHENTICATION

Adding a second layer of security that requires a unique piece of information (like an unusual picture or a randomly generated code sent to your phone) is another way to make your accounts much harder to hack.

3. SHOP ONLY ON SECURE WEB PAGES

Whenever you’re asked to enter a credit card number or other personally identifiable information, always check that a small lock or shield appears beside the URL in your browser, or that the URL itself begins with the secure HTTPS designation. It’s a quick way to be sure your information is going to the right place and cannot be intercepted in transit.

4. WATCH OUT FOR PHISHING

Research by AARP/Javelin and the FTC shows that phishing attempts via phone or email are still a major channel for identity theft. Beware of any caller who requires you to provide personal information. If it’s your bank or financial institution, they should already have this on file and should instead ask you to confirm the details they supply.

Similarly, be careful of emails that ask you to provide your information either in a direct reply or via a provided web link. Legitimate emails will rarely ask you to do this, so if you’re not sure it’s worth checking with your bank.

5. UPDATE AND PATCH SOFTWARE

Criminals are always looking for vulnerabilities in the software you use, from the operating systems of your computer or phone to the applications and websites provided by financial institutions and vendors.

Always make sure that your operating system, software, and applications are up to date. Additionally, install any recommended patches—they’re provided for a reason.

6. RESTRICT ACCESS TO YOUR ACCOUNT

Be careful of providing others access to your account. This usually happens when you set up a direct debit for regular payments or when you use a budgeting program that automatically downloads your banking information

Keep these kinds of permissions to a minimum and cancel them when you’re no longer using them. Better still, use scheduled payments via the online payment features provided by your bank for direct debits. It only takes a single third-party hack for your account to be exposed.

7. AVOID PUBLIC WI-FI

Just as you would avoid disclosing your bank account or PIN in a public place, you should be careful of using public Wi-Fi. Even if you don’t transmit personal information while on a public network, it provides criminals with an opportunity to infect your computer with spyware which could steal your information later.

8. SHRED OR SECURE PRINTED STATEMENTS

Despite the shift to online identity theft and fraud, your printed financial statements still make a rich and easily obtainable target for criminals. Store your financial records in a locked fireproof box or safety deposit box. Shred documents you don’t plan to keep.

9. SIGN THE BACK OF YOUR CREDIT CARD

Sign the back of every card you own. Really. An unsigned credit card is a gift to criminals who already have it too easy. Merchants are still supposed to check that the signature you write on the receipt matches the one on your card. A signed card holds everyone accountable and makes it easier to spot criminal activity.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOUR CREDIT CARD IS STOLEN

If your credit card is stolen or you believe your credit card information has been compromised, you should:

  • Contact the card issuer immediately via their anti-fraud number. Inform them of any unauthorized transactions and ask them to freeze the card.
  • Disable your card using the “freeze card” function available on the mobile apps of many financial institutions.
  • Write a dated letter to your bank informing them of the loss. Send it via certified mail and keep a copy. This will help to protect you if the bank fails to act or disputes claims.
  • Monitor your credit card account and statements for further unauthorized transactions.

WE’RE HERE WHEN YOU NEED US

GHS Federal Credit Union wants to help you make the most of your finances. This includes a heightened sense of awareness about how to prevent bank and credit card fraud. Click below to learn more about smart choices for using and managing your cards.