Consumers today rely heavily on credit and debit cards to make purchases both large and small. How many of us, after all, pay cash when fueling our cars? And then there’s online shopping. Most of us don’t hesitate to order online. Some of us even use a card to purchase coffee on our morning commute.
Credit and debit cards have made our lives simpler, but they’ve also increased the chances that we could become identity theft victims. If a thief steals your card or account number, they can make unauthorized purchases in your name, continuing to spend until you notice your card is missing or see unusual activity on your account.
Protect yourself from fraud
- Store your cards in a safe place when not carrying them with you.
- Never send your credit card or debit card number in an email message, even if you trust the recipient. It’s easy for hackers to intercept your email messages.
- Never give out your credit or debit card number over the phone unless you initiated the call. If someone calls saying they’re from your card issuer, never give your card number. It could be a scammer. Your credit card issuer will never call to ask for your account number.
- Study your credit card account statement every time it arrives or regularly check transactions online. Search for unusual transactions that you don’t remember making, which could be evidence that someone has gained access to your account number. If you use debit cards, check your bank statements regularly for unauthorized purchases or withdrawals.
Shred your bank account and credit card account statements before recycling them. Some identity thieves aren’t above digging through your recycling or trash to find your old statements.
You should also shred any unsolicited pre-approved credit card offers, which could be used to open credit card accounts in your name and potentially wreck your credit score.
As soon as you think someone may have stolen your cards or your account information, contact the card issuer. The faster you call, the faster your financial institution can shut down your stolen card or account. If someone does steal your credit or debit cards, you are not required to pay for any unauthorized purchases.
There’s no going back to a world without debit or credit cards. That doesn’t mean you can’t take common-sense steps to protect yourself when using these spending tools.