Below are some simple common sense tips that will help you keep you identity safe:
How often do you watch the news and another retailer has had their credit card information breached or some innocent person has had a fraudster attain their credit card number and gone on a buying spree? This was not such a problem 30 years ago. Has the information super-highway robbed us entirely of our security? Credit card fraud is rampant today and criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated. Online hackers are exceptionally smart and are trying to stay one step ahead of the authorities. If you become smart with your credit, you can help protect yourself against most forms of fraud.
If you first understand how your card number gets into the hands of thieves, then you can be proactive in safe guarding your information. TV detectives are not the only ones who jump into dumpsters to find evidence. An identity thieve will observe different businesses or upscale homes and go through the trash that has been put out in dumpsters to see if there is any correspondence or receipts with valuable data.
We all know about national retail chains that get hacked. This includes restaurant chains too. Did you know that there are some dishonest servers who will imprint your card information when they go back to their registers to ring up your meal? Many modern sit-down restaurants now have a way for the server to swipe your card at the table so it never leaves your sight.
And then there are our favorite pests, the telemarketer. They tell you about a special travel offer or some other incentive that sounds too good to be true for a very low cost. You bite and they ask for your credit card number, date of expiration and security number on the back of the card. You have now given them everything they need to wipe out your credit line. These criminals seem to prey more on senior citizens because they're more trusting.
- Be extremely cautious in giving your card number out over the phone unless it is to a business that you do business with on a regular basis, i.e. your local pizza delivery. If you do not know them, do not give out the information.
- It is an excellent idea to only carry the card you will need for the day or week with you, and keep it in a place that is separate from your wallet. If your wallet gets stolen, that one card will not be.
- If you are really concerned that you may be vulnerable, you can freeze your credit at the reporting bureaus. If someone tries to increase your credit line or open a new account in your name, the action will be declined unless the person making the request knows your code phrase.
- While it may be inconvenient, create different logins and passwords for stores and bills that you pay online. Ensure that your password is a combination of lower case, capital letters and numbers that make no sense. Do not use your birthday, year of birth, pet’s name, etc.
- When shopping online pay with a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit cards are easier to deal with for refunds. Some people have a special card just for online purchases which means thieves cannot get the numbers of their more valuable cards.
- Always check your credit card statements whether they come by snail mail or they are electronic. Check every single charge, no matter how small. Most banks will give you up to 60 days to report a fraudulent charge. Some thieves will get credit card numbers of 100,000 people and then charge each one $15 hoping it will not get noticed. Multiply it out and you will see that a big number of small charges can net a huge amount of profit.
- Check your credit report every four months. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once a year. Select a different one every four months. Make sure everything is correct. As an aside, when you apply for new credit more than ‘x’ many times it causes your FICO score to go down. Make sure no one has applied for credit in your name.
- Invest in an inexpensive shredder for your home. Shred any documents that have personal information rather than just tearing them up and putting them in the trash. Remember the dumpster divers.
- Before traveling keep a list of all the cards you will be taking, and each fraud assistance hotline. Leave it with a trusted friend while you're out of the country. That way if you are pick pocketed, someone stateside can call and cancel your cards for you, avoiding costly international calls. Also, some banks like Bank Of America allow you to call them collect too.
American Express has a broad range of offerings in both credit cards and charge cards. Some experts say they offer some of the best fraud protection in the industry. You can call the customer service number on the back of the card and you are issued a temporary credit within 48 hours while the charge is being investigated.
Citi’s line of credit cards ranks high in fraud protection features. However, their claims usually take around 10 business days. You do not receive an immediate credit so the fraudulent charge can be taken from your credit line until the investigation is over. The best news is that you will be covered for the full amount of the purchase plus any interest, overdraft charges or NDF fees.
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