Technology is booming, now more than ever. Consequently, fraud and data breach are booming too. With improved technology, hackers are getting smarter and credit card information is becoming more vulnerable. In 2017 alone, the Identity Resource Center reported a total of 1,579 data breaches, which compromised more than 174 million records. This is 45 percent more breaches than 2016. In 2018, the trend is continuing with more than 385 data breaches already as of April.
With such disturbing statistics, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that securing your credit card information is imperative. Instead of reading these statistics and panicking, read our tips for keeping your credit card information secure. You don’t have to wait to see if your information will be hacked; take action now and seize control of what you can to make sure your private information stays that way.
Only Shop HTTPS Sites
Websites are classified as either HTTP or HTTPS. The added SSL on the latter informs the user the website is secure and uses a security measure called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). This protocol acts as an encryption tool for any information transferred through the website (e.g., credit card information or other personal details). This ensures information is more secure and less vulnerable to potential hackers. Websites without the added security are at additional risk for corruption and are unreliable.
If possible, switch to paperless credit card statements. In the instance of lost or stolen mail, your credit card information will be safe. You also won’t have to wait additional days to view your statement; instead, the day your statement is available, you will be able to see it instantly through your online account. If you prefer to stick with a paper statement, another option is getting a P.O. box in addition to your regular mailbox. P.O. boxes are more protected and are less likely to be broken into than a standard residential mailbox.
However, don’t neglect your statements once you go paperless. It may be easier to let them go unseen since they aren’t coming to your door, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Keep checking them regularly and stay apprised of what is going on with your credit card account.
Try to Avoid Wi-Fi Hotspots
Free Wi-Fi? What can be better than that? Unfortunately, Wi-Fi hotspots are a hacker’s dream. Mobile devices are often programmed to connect to available Wi-Fi without manual permission from the user. So, without you even knowing it, your device could automatically connect to Wi-Fi and fall right into the hacker’s trap to easily access your information.
With such vulnerabilities, consider disabling this function on all of your devices. Also, it may be helpful to avoid using Wi-Fi hotspots altogether. Their networks are less secure and unless completely necessary, the brief, free Wi-Fi most likely isn’t worth the risk.
Ensure Security Among Devices and Networks
Keeping your computer up-to-date on all software updates and installing antivirus/anti-spyware protection is essential if you have sensitive information on your computer. It is especially important to have if you are sharing credit card information through an application on your computer, for example, purchasing something on iTunes or Amazon. You don’t want to divulge information over the Internet if you do not have a firewall and proper protection to keep your information out of the wrong hands. Lastly, avoid downloading anything from unknown or unsecured sites to avoid additional security risks.
Shop in Places with EMV Chip Technology
Now becoming the global standard for credit card and debit card transactions, EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) chip technology’s purpose is to increase security and decrease card-present fraudulent activity. This chip technology is a regular credit or debit card embedded with a microchip, making the payment process more secure than the previous magnetic stripe cards through additional encryption. Instead of swiping the card, chip technology requires the card to be inserted into the point-of-sale (POS) machine.
The magnetic stripe on the old cards is easily copied, compromising vast amounts of card users’ information and resulting in excessive fraud. The magnetic stripe is also simple to copy through a card reading device, which makes it easy to create counterfeit cards.
Thankfully, credit card companies, such as MasterCard, Discover, Visa and American Express are now requiring all merchant account providers to replace their POS systems with systems that accept the chip-enabled cards. However, not all merchants have made the transition to EMV technology. Consequently, most merchants will be held responsible for any fraudulent activity that occurs in their place of business that could have been prevented by chip technology. In the case of fraud, the card user will not be at fault and will be reimbursed by either the credit card company or the business merchant. Still, it is a hassle and a risk many people aren’t willing to take. If you want to make sure your card information won’t be at risk, consider avoiding businesses that don’t have chip technology.
Don’t Provide Credit Card Information Over the Phone
Unless you are absolutely positive the person is a trusted source, avoid giving out your credit card information over the phone. Even then, it can still be risky. Scammers will often call people and pose as a reputable company, asking for credit card information for what seems like a completely reasonable request.
Properly Dispose of Sensitive Documents
Throwing away documents containing sensitive information isn’t enough; shred any important documents before putting them in the trash. Dumpster-diving thieves can find private documents, compromising innocent civilians’ personal information. Shred or properly dispose of documents you don’t need, and keep the documents you do need in a safe, secure place.
Also, check with local businesses to ensure they are disposing of documents properly. If they have been careless, your credit card information could be exposed. There have been situations in which businesses have thrown documents into the garbage without further precaution, exposing their clients’ information. Check with your credit card company and other businesses to make sure this isn’t happening. It doesn’t hurt to be safe rather than sorry.
Diversify Your Passwords
Having the same password for all your accounts could mean a jackpot for hackers. According to a survey, about three out of four consumers use the same password for multiple accounts, not having changed them in years. Of those surveyed, almost 40 percent reported some kind of security incident.
To escape a similar situation, make your passwords unpredictable to an outsider and keep your passwords unique. This will protect you from hackers and in the case of a breach, only that specific account will be compromised, rather than all of your accounts with the same password.
Check Your Statement Regularly
If you don’t check your credit card statement regularly, you could be at risk of overlooking fraudulent activity. Look thoroughly at all bank, credit card, and additional statements to make sure nothing goes unseen. If there is any activity on your account you don’t recognize, you can alert your bank and credit card company immediately and be reimbursed. Also, you can get a new credit card before more fraudulent activity occurs under your name.
If you wait too long to spot the mistake, your credit card provider may not reimburse you because it is past the required time limit.
Cross Out Unused Lines on Receipts
Before signing any receipts, cross out unused lines to prevent anyone from having the ability to change the transaction amount. And never sign a blank receipt; this is potential fraud waiting to happen. Also, keep copies of all important receipts and file them in a secure place. For the receipts you don’t need, tear them up or shred them along with other sensitive documents.
Get Purchase Protection
What happens if you make a purchase with your credit card and the place you purchased the good from goes out of business before you receive it? Or, what if you purchased something on the Internet and you never received it in the mail? That’s where purchase protection comes in.
Most credit card companies provide complimentary purchase protection, which covers you for all such situations. This also comes in handy if a merchant tries to scam you by taking your money without sending you the purchased item. Even if you do come in contact with a fraudulent merchant, you don’t have to be held responsible; you can file a claim and get your money back without much trouble. If this happens though, keep an eye on your future statements to see that the non trusted business doesn’t charge your card again.
You may not be able to control data breaches or potential hackers working the system; however, with these tips, you can take precautions to make sure your credit card and other personal information are as secure as possible. In addition to your efforts, there are technology advances that are making credit cards more secure. With all of these prevention in action, your credit card information will be significantly more protected.