Despite increased detection services by creditors and heightened consumer awareness of how to handle suspected credit card fraud, Javelin Strategy & Research reports that identity fraud increased by 13% in 2011, leaving more than 11 million American adults victims of identity theft.
Don’t be one of those victims. Here are nine simple ways to avoid credit card fraud:
1. Don’t be too social
Personal information you leave on your social media profile provides an invaluable “breadcrumb” path for identity thieves to track down answers to common security questions creditors use to verify the identify of a caller, like the name of a cardholder’s high school, pets, or place of birth.
[pull_quote align=”left”]In addition to making certain that your privacy settings on sites like Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare and Instagram are open to friends only, proactively remove your name from personal databases that aggregate public records and social media data.[/pull_quote]In addition to making certain that your privacy settings on sites like Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare and Instagram are open to friends only, proactively remove your name from personal databases like Spokeo, ZabaSearch and 123People that aggregate public records and social media data — and make it too easy for identity thieves to piece your personal information together and commit credit card fraud.
2. Empty the mailbox
More preapproved offers in your mailbox mean greater risk of identity theft and credit card fraud.
Visit optoutprescreen.com to prevent third parties like lenders, insurers, and creditors from accessing your personal information and sending preapproved offers of credit.
3. Know who you’re talking to
Receiving a call from your credit card company alerting you to suspicious credit activity and credit card fraud can be jarring, but don’t allow panic to wipe away your good sense.
Because most incoming calls from a credit card company customer service department will not match the #800 customer service number listed on your card, it is critical that you verify the caller.
Before you give any information about your credit card account, including the date and amount of the most recent transactions, ask the caller to provide a number that you can call back, to verify the person on the other end of the phone is who they claim to be.
4. Get state ID cards for your children
According to AllClear ID’s Child Identity Theft Report 2012, children are being targeted for identity fraud 35 times more often than adults.
If successful, an identity thief can use a child’s Social Security number (which is easily accessible by way of forms you may complete for school or sports teams), to fraudulently open lines of credit and credit cards that may not be discovered for years.
For less than $10, parents can obtain a state ID card for children at a local bureau of motor vehicles. With this official record of the child’s face to the Social Security number, it’s much harder for identity thieves to hijack a child’s personal information and create credit card fraud.
5. Finalize receipts
When leaving tips, write the $ sign close to the tip amount as well as to the numerical total, so that another digit cannot be added later. Draw a line through any field that is left blank.
6. Reconcile regularly
Electronic statements help to minimize the amount of sensitive information in your mailbox, but don’t let the “out of sight, out of mind” nature of them thwart how you keep tabs on credit activity to avoid credit card fraud.
[pull_quote align=”left”]Devote a space in your purse or wallet to keep receipts for each billing cycle, and take a snapshot of each receipt with your smartphone if you struggle to maintain a paper trail.[/pull_quote]Devote a space in your purse or wallet to keep receipts for each billing cycle, and take a snapshot of each receipt with your smartphone if you struggle to maintain a paper trail.
At the end of the month, reconcile credit card statements with each receipt, including verification of tip amounts, and returns or credits you expect.
7. Don’t store with a business
It may be convenient to let your hairdresser, yoga studio or child’s daycare keep your credit number on file, but small businesses who lack IT infrastructure are particularly prone to malware and viruses that make your credit card information easily accessible to thieves for credit card fraud.
8. Don’t assume your smartphone is secure
According to the 2012 Identity Fraud Industry Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming the New Fraud Frontier by Javelin Strategy & Research, 32% of smartphone owners do not update to a new operating system when it becomes available, and 62% do not use a password on their home screen.
Failing to take these basic precautionary measures is akin to walking around with an unsecured computer in your pocket. Inconvenient as it is, create a different password for every email and financial account you own and is a smart way to help avoid credit card fraud.
9. Take data breaches seriously
Data breaches of sensitive customer information occurred at companies like Barnes & Noble, Global Payments, Zappos and Nationwide Insurance last year, and according to Javelin Strategy & Research, victims of data breaches are 9.5 times more likely to become victims of identity fraud after the fact.
But, contrary to popular belief, merchants do not have to notify customers of a security breach, provided that consumer information was wrapped in basic encryption. (For example, if customer name and credit card information is stolen but the numbers were encrypted, notification isn’t legally required).
Don’t assume that a merchant will inform you of a security breach. Stay aware of news around data breaches at retailers you’ve shopped with, and be proactive about monitoring your own credit when they happen as another way to avoid credit card fraud.