Almost everybody has at least one credit card. Many young people no longer carry cash, but use a credit — or debit — card to pay for everything. It's easy, you get a record of everything you bought and if you pay the bill in full each month, you won't rack up a pile of debt. Credit card theft and fraud, however, are on the rise and you need to be aware of the security issue with credit or debit cards and how to protect yourself from fraud or theft.
Keep Track of Cards
Record basic information on all your credit cards, the issuer, the card number and the security code on the back and store it in an absolutely secure place, like a safe deposit box. Only carry the cards you need regularly. Do not leave cards laying around in a desk or other spot where a burglar or even a casual intruder might see them.
Check your credit card balances frequently online and examine monthly statements promptly to question any charges you do not recognize. In most cases, the card issuer will remove an unauthorized charge if you report it promptly. You generally have 60 days from the statement date to report an erroneous charge. Report any lost cards immediately so you aren’t held responsible for any charges.
Keep Information Secret
Never put your personal identification number on the card and, of course, always sign the card so there is a signature to validate its use. Don't give a credit card number over the phone unless you made the call and know who you're talking to. Don't respond to any emails asking for credit card information, even if they seem to come from a legitimate source; thieves can imitate banks and merchants
Be Careful With Charge Copies
Be cautious using a credit card in public. Take copies of credit card receipts with you when you leave the store or restaurant so thieves cannot get information from them. Draw a line through a blank space above the signature line to keep somebody from changing the amounts. Of course, never sign a blank charge — and check the total on a bill before signing it.
Watch out for skimmers at automatic teller machines, gasoline pumps and other places where you slide a card without an attendant present. Thieves can secretly install devices in these places which record credit card data before it sends the information on to be legitimately processed. Once a thief has the data from the card's magnetic strip, he can produce a counterfeit copy.
Stay up with the news of breaches into computer systems that can expose thousands of credit card numbers. Colleges, major merchants, health providers and almost every other type of organization have been hit by hackers who break into computer systems or have lost storage devices with credit card data. Contact your source immediately if you think your information might have been pilfered.
- Bank of America: How to Keep Your Credit Card Safe
- Washington Post: Hackers Test Limits of Credit Card Security Standards
- MBNA: Credit Card Security
- Security Management: Credit Card Data Security Problems
- Computer Crime Research Center: Credit Card Security
- PC World: Keep Your Credit Cards Safe from Skimmers
Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.