Every year, the cost of credit card fraud comes to billions of dollars. While this may seem like a large amount, numerous organizations report that crimes related to credit cards are one the rise. The increased use of the Internet has opened additional opportunities for thieves to access your account. And more people are using credit cards, which gives criminals more opportunities to steal valuable information.
Rather than getting alarmed, you can take certain measures to protect yourself from credit card fraud. For starters, it's important to have a solid understanding of identity theft and how it occurs. Read on for information about these crimes, and to learn what you can do to minimize the risk of identity fraud.
How it Happens
Credit card fraud can be carried out in a number of ways. One of the most traditional methods is to simply steal a card holder's credit card. If a criminal does this, he or she can quickly gain valuable information such as your name, account number, and verification number. After stealing the piece of plastic, many thieves look for ways to make unauthorized transactions.
Another form of credit card fraud, or identity theft, occurs when a thief gains access to some of your personal information and then uses it to his or her advantage. A criminal may rummage through your garbage and steal receipts that contain your name and account number on them. When you check out at a store, the clerk may make a copy of your card. In these cases, the person may use the stolen information to create a counterfeit card or make purchases through the Internet.
Application fraud takes place when a thief opens a new account in your name. The person will first steal information regarding your identity, such as your name, address, account numbers and social security number. Then the thief begins to make purchases and rack up bills on your behalf. You may not know that it has happened until the payment notices begin showing up at your door.
How to Protect Yourself
It may be frightening to think of other people stealing your identity, and making unauthorized purchases with your personal information. While fraud will most likely always be a problem, there are certain measures you can take to reduce the risks of it happening to you. To start with, keep careful track of your cards and accounts. Check your statements each month, and look to see if there are any purchases listed that you did not make.
Before you buy an item through the Internet, check to see if the website looks secure. If the site uses SSL technology, or shows a small padlock on the screen, there is probably little need to worry. If you do not feel that the site is safe, however, avoid using it.
Along the same lines, if you regularly access your bank and credit card accounts online, do not share your passwords with others. Only use computers that are secure, and not publicly shared, to look at your online statements. When you are finished, be careful to log out and close the browser window before you do anything else online.
To minimize your risks, you can also keep credit cards in a safe place. Do not carry them all in your wallet if you are not going to use them. When you get a new card, sign it and activate it right away. When you cancel an account, cut up the card before throwing it away.
If you notice that your card has been lost or stolen, call the appropriate bank or company right away. They will be able to cancel the account, and will not charge you more than $ 50 for the fraudulent activity. Similarly, if you even suspect that someone may have accessed your account without your permission, call the card company and tell them about the situation. The representatives will be eager to help you and keep your information safe.
Check your Credit
While there are many ways to avoid credit card fraud, sometimes the best approach is to check your credit card accounts regularly. If you ask for a report of your recent transactions, you can look at any suspicious activity and notify the authorities immediately. You can also request a credit report, and look it over to see if there are any errors or unauthorized actions on it.
If identity theft does happen to you, consider it a learning experience. Many times it is unavoidable, and is simply a case of reporting the activity and getting a new card. Work hard to keep track of your accounts and to protect yourself. By doing so, you'll reduce your risks substantially. And you can even offer advice to others on ways to avoid i