As concern over financial fraud grows, understanding the basics of credit card protection is more important than ever.
Americans use credit cards more than ever these days—which makes understanding credit card safety an essential part of their use. There’s a lot you can do to help protect your credit cards, and most of it comes down to common sense. Read these credit card safety tips and learn simple ways to safeguard your cards.
Practice basic credit card security
When you get a new card in the mail, it’s important to sign the back right away. This protects you if the card falls into someone else’s hands. It’s also important not to store your PIN in the same place as your card; if your card gets stolen, you don’t want a thief to have the PIN as well.
Keep your account number private
There are a number of ways thieves can get their hands on your credit card number. To prevent this:
Keep your card private. Don’t let anyone see it when you’re out in public. Don’t give your card information over the phone unless you initiated the call and you’re talking to a bank or merchant you trust.Never answer an email that asks for your account number or personal information, even if it looks like it’s from your bank or a reputable company or organization. Consider paperless statements and making payments online to remove your sensitive information from the postal system. It’s also a good idea to shred documents with sensitive personal information prior to disposal.
Keep your information current
Notify your bank if you move; you want to make sure your statements and other information follow you to your new address and don’t end up in anyone else’s hands. It’s a good idea to sign up for fraud alerts using your cell phone number. Be sure to periodically check to make sure financial institutions have your correct phone number and email address on file. This way, if anything goes wrong, you can be contacted quickly.
Be careful with your receipts
If you have extra space on your receipt, draw a line through it so no one can add in any additional charges or amounts. It’s also a good idea to check your receipts against your billing statements to make sure everything adds up. Finally, don’t just throw out any duplicates or old receipts. Shred the ones you don’t need and securely file the rest.
Secure your devices and networks
When securing your digital information, there are a few best practices to follow:
Make sure your computer is equipped with a firewall. Be sure to change the password and keep the firewall turned on.
Download and install updates to your operating system, software and browser when prompted. These updates tend to include the most up-to-date security features.
Install security software. The two most common types are antivirus, which protects your computer from malicious code, and anti-spyware, which keeps people from monitoring your activity. Even if you have security software, avoid downloading programs or files from unknown places. If you’re a Bank of America customer, you can download IBM’s Trusteer Rapport software for free.
Protect yourself online
Online shopping is more popular than ever, which means it’s more important than ever to protect your information online. Try to shop at established businesses that you can contact easily if there’s an issue. Look for sites with https: in their web addresses—the “s” stands for secured. Even if you’re on a secured site, don’t share your information unless you have to and you know how it will be used. Make sure you check policies on payment, refunds, returns and shipping. Finally, be sure to keep copies of any confirmation codes or receipts.
Keep your passwords secret
A good password is complex and combines letters and numbers—the longer the better. Avoid using details that are easy to guess (family member names or birthdays) or important information (like bank account or Social Security numbers). Change passwords periodically and pick different ones for every account—don’t use the same password for your bank account and retail sites.
Check your account often
Reviewing your recent account activity is fundamental to credit card safety—and it’s easy. You can do it online or by phone. If your credit card issuer offers email or text alerts about unusual activity, sign up to receive them. If you’ve been a victim of fraud or identity theft in the past, consider signing up with a credit-monitoring service. Learn more about Bank of America’s fraud protection and monitoring services.
Report lost cards and suspected fraud right away
If you lose your credit card or suspect fraudulent activity, contact your bank or credit card issuer right away. Your credit card issuer can block your card and account number so no one else can use them, then give you a new card and account number. Remember: Speed is critical. According to U.S. law, once you notify your issuer that your card was lost or stolen, the most you’ll have to pay is $50—and many issuers waive that as long as you notify them promptly.