If you rely on plastic to do your shopping in stores or online, it’s important to know how to protect yourself from potential credit card fraud. Here are a few tips to prevent yourself from becoming a victim while you’re shopping:
- Follow your gut instincts. If something doesn’t look right, take the time to double check. Whether it’s a credit card reader that looks altered or an online checkout page that doesn’t match the retailer’s website, don’t use the machine or enter your credit card information until you can confirm that nothing suspicious is going on.
- Secure your online shopping. Keeping software and web browsers on your computer and mobile devices up to date ensures that you have the most current security patches available and helps keep fraudsters out of your devices.
- Protect your passwords. Choose passwords that are hard to guess, and don’t use the same one for every website or app. Say “no” to offers to store your login information, as this can easily allow someone else access to your accounts.
- Choose security over convenience. Many retailers offer the option of entering your payment information just once and storing it for future purchases. Think twice before opting for this seemingly more convenient route, as storing this information can make it easier for someone to make fraudulent purchases in your name.
- Watch for scams. Fraudsters love to tug on your heartstrings, asking you to donate to those in need or posing as your own loved ones in need of help. Before you honor any requests, make sure the nonprofit you’re donating to (and the way they’re asking you to pay) is legitimate, and initiate contact with your family member or friend yourself before responding to a fishy text, email or phone call.
- Monitor your accounts. Unfortunately, you may never know when your information is being stolen. Keeping an eye on your accounts helps you identify fraudulent activity sooner and report it earlier, which can save you money and hassle in the long run. Sign up to receive account alerts offered by your financial institution. PSECU’s free e-Alerts service has more than a dozen to choose from.
- Monitor your credit. In addition to using existing accounts, fraudsters may open new credit cards in your name. Taking advantage of your free credit reports each year (you can get them at annualcreditreport.com/index.action) helps you identify and shut down any fraudulent accounts.
Even if you’re not relying on credit cards for your purchases, these tips still apply and there are additional steps you can take to keep your money safe. For instance, when you’re going to an ATM, check the machine for any signs of tampering before you use it. Also, always cover the keypad with your hand when you’re entering your PIN. Crooks are very clever about hiding cameras. Prefer to use checks? Be sure you can trust the people you’re giving them to, as your routing and account numbers are on the bottom and can be used to access funds in your account.