Your credit card contains a wealth of sensitive information that, in the wrong hands, could be used to make fraudulent purchases and even open you up to identity theft. In 2014, about 31.8 million consumers in the U.S. had their credit cards compromised, making the need to keep your credit information safe more important than ever. Here are five ways to practice good credit card protection.
1. Keep Your Credit Card Information Confidential
Anyone with access to your credit card information not only has the ability to make purchases in your name, but can use that information to open fraudulent credit accounts that you are responsible for sorting out with your credit card company. The more people who have access to your credit card number, the higher the odds are that it could be stolen. Here are some rules of thumb to avoid theft:
- Never let anyone see your credit card number. If you absolutely have to, make sure it is someone you trust completely.
- Never leave your cards, statements or receipts out in the open.
- Shred your credit card statements before throwing them away.
- Only give your credit card number to reputable companies.
- Don’t give your credit card number to anyone on the phone unless you called them.
- If you haven’t dealt with a company before, go online and search for reviews or complaints before trusting them with your credit card.
2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
When you take out your credit card to make a purchase, keep in mind that someone may want to get your card number if they have a chance. Keep an eye on your credit card at all times, and make sure it’s returned to you before you leave. Similarly, never sign a blank receipt. If there is a blank space above the total where a tip can be written in, draw a line across it if you don’t intend to tip.
Take a look at the credit card reader before using it. Thieves can attach skimmers to credit card readers to steal your number when you make a purchase. If you’re about to use an ATM, store card reader, or pay at the gas pump and it looks like it has been tampered with, consider using another form of payment.
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3. Use Tokenized Payment Options
If your credit card has a chip, use that to pay whenever possible. Credit card chips use a tokenized payment method, which doesn’t reveal your card number to the card reader. Instead, the chip submits a one-time-use token that can never be used again. Services like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay on your mobile phone also use tokenized payments, keeping your credit card number private.
4. Keep Records
Take a photo of the credit card receipts for all of your purchases and log them in an easily-accessible, organized spot such as a personal finance app. When you get your monthly statement, compare the purchases to your receipts. And between statements, log into your account regularly to compare your purchases and pending transactions to the purchases you made. If you find a discrepancy, contact the credit card company immediately.
You should also consider keeping a record of your credit card numbers, expiration dates and the telephone numbers on the cards. If your wallet is ever lost or stolen, this will ensure that you will be able to contact the credit card companies as quickly as possible. However, like the credit card receipts, you shouldn’t keep this information in your phone in case that too becomes lost or stolen.
5. Review Your Credit Reports
Should your credit card information be compromised, criminals may try to use the information to open additional credit cards in your name. Download your free credit report annually and review it. If you find credit accounts opened in your name that you didn’t authorize, contact the creditors who hold the accounts, and freeze your report with the major credit bureaus for an additional layer of identity theft protection. You can also go to IdentityTheft.gov, a resource from the federal government that helps you report identity theft.