Tech-Friendly: Protect yourself against credit and debit card fraud

January 29, 2014

By Paul Gorski

In the past few months, millions of Target and Neiman-Marcus credit card holders had their credit card accounts accessed by computer hackers. In February 2013, 18 people were arrested and charged with crimes related to a credit card fraud scheme covering 28 states and involving at least $200 million in losses.

Nationally, credit and debit card fraud is on the rise, and as much of this fraud occurs electronically, I think it is a good “Tech-Friendly” topic.

There are some obvious steps to minimize your exposure to credit card fraud: pay with cash or check when possible. You could also us a pre-loaded debit card for regular, small purchases. This would limit any potential loss to what was charged to the pre-paid debit card.

Don’t share your credit/debit account number or login PIN/password via e-mail or with someone on the phone, unless you’ve called the number on the back of your card or from your invoice statement. Even then, most companies shouldn’t ask for your password over the phone.

Minimize the number of cards you have and carry; more accounts means more opportunity for fraud. Also, shred and/or thoroughly destroy any pre-approved credit card offers that come to you via the mail. Criminals go through the garbage looking for such offers.

Keep all receipts and statements in a secure location, away from prying eyes. You may download these with your online account access, but don’t e-mail your statements to anyone. E-mail is not a secure way to share information.

Avoid storing receipts and credit card information, including passwords, on your smartphone. Most people don’t lock or secure their smartphones, and if lost, you could be handing over your bank account information to would-be criminals.

Lastly, review your monthly statements as soon as you receive them. Report any questionable activity, even if it’s only for a few cents or a dollar. Sometimes, hackers charge a small amount, like $1, just to test whether they have accessed your account successfully.

Visit the Federal Trade Commission website for more about protecting yourself against credit card fraud: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0216-protecting-against-credit-card-fraud.

Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple Iie.

Posted Jan. 29, 2014

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