Credit Card Fraud: Five Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Credit Score

Learn five easy ways to protect you and your personal information from the dangers of credit card fraud.

Credit card fraud has been top of mind for many shoppers lately as some of the nation’s most popular retailers have had massive security breaches. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 25.6 million adults (or 10.8 percent of the U.S. population) have been victims of fraud. Avoid being part of this 10 percent by learning how to protect your credit score, finances and identity from fraud.  By monitoring your accounts and utilizing credit card services you can increase your personal security both on and offline.

1. Monitoring

Actively monitoring your transaction records and credit score is one of the most effective ways to identify and prevent fraud. At a minimum you should review your credit and debit card statements monthly and check your credit report annually. Federal law requires each of the three nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to provide one free credit report per year. Visit annualcreditreport.com to receive this free report. You can also purchase credit-monitoring services from these bureaus that will alert you if there is a change to your credit history.

2. Alerts

Many credit companies provide fraud alerts free of charge. Taking full advantage of any alert program offered by your credit card company is a very effective way to protect yourself from fraud. When you sign up for email, text or phone alerts you authorize your financial institution to contact you if there is suspicious activity on your account.

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3. Online Precautions

Unfortunately, scammers can use these alerts to their advantage as well. Protect your identity online by always being wary of any communication that requests credit card information, account numbers, passwords, social security numbers or a birth date. A legitimate alert or confirmation from your financial institution will never ask you to send this information over email. Other ways to protect yourself from fraud online include:

  • Keeping your operating system, browser and  anti-virus software up-to-date
  • Installing a personal firewall
  • Using strong passwords and changing them regularly
  • Never giving your credit card number to a site without SSL protection

4. Offline Precautions

While internet scams are becoming more frequent, credit card fraud is certainly still a risk in the real world as well. Always shred any piece of mail that contains personal or credit card information before throwing it away. Or consider signing up for automatic bill pay online instead of receiving paper statements to avoid this altogether. Also be aware of your surroundings when giving a credit card number over the phone. Ordering pizza at the soccer field could expose you to fraud just as easily as responding to a phishing scam.

5. Choose a Card with Fraud Protection

Select a credit card that offers fraud protection without additional fees. For example, Discover Card has a $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee, which means that cardmembers are not held liable for unauthorized purchases on their account. Also look for a program that offers credit card services such as automatic alerts, paperless statements and fraud specialists on staff.

So what should you do if a store or website you frequent is hacked for credit card information? Request a new card right away and employ all of the means above to keep an eye on your accounts. If you learn your identity is being used fraudulently, place a fraud alert on your name and identity by contacting the Federal Trade Commission and the national credit-reporting organizations. The sooner you report the incident the better chance you have of minimizing damage to your credit score.

For more information, please visit Discover.com’s Security Center.

Resources:

http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2013/04/ftc-survey-2011-shows-estimated-256-million-americans-fell-victim

https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

Legal Disclaimer: The articles and information provided herein are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice. 

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