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How to keep your credit card safe and avoid scams

In the past few years the rate of credit card fraud has gone down significantly with providers leveraging new technology to add extra security measures. This means that it is now safer than ever to use a credit card. Unfortunately, however, thieves have kept up the pace, using their own fair share of technical breakthroughs to defraud credit card holders. So risks still remain, but if you take heed of the most common types of card fraud you can protect your finances and belongings.

It’s worth mentioning first what to do if you suspect someone is attempting to defraud you: call your card company immediately, and also give details of the incident to ActionFraud

Cloning or skimming

This practice isn’t as effective for criminals as it once was, thanks to developments in physical card technology like EMV chips, but is still a concern. Cloning, also known as skimming, is a practice whereby a card is duplicated when it is scanned through a machine in a shop or at other points of sale (and even ATMs). The best way to prevent this from happening is to be alert to suspicious equipment or unusual behaviour of staff operating these machines, and check your statements regularly.

Collusive merchants

This is when businesses or their employees collude with criminals (or run the operation themselves) to defraud the provider or credit card user. Their is not a whole amount you can do to prevent this, other than taking the same precautions as with skimming and being alert to anything odd about a merchant, and also keeping in touch with your provider in case they want to verify transactions with you. While this is mainly a concern for the credit card company, it can also cost you money or at least cause a lot of hassle.

Lost or stolen credit cards

This one is quite straightforward. In the event of your card being lost and falling into the wrong hands or being stolen, a criminal can use it to make purchases. Thankfully, preventing this is also straightforward (and maybe easier said than done), in that if you keep your card safe you’ll be fine. If you suspect your card is lost or stolen, call your provider immediately, followed by calling the police in the event of suspected theft.

Phishing

This involves a fraudster contacting you posing as your card provider and attempting to get you to disclose security details which can then be used to access your account or use your card. As you have probably heard before, never give out information such as your PIN by phone, mail or email to anyone contacting you unsolicitedly (and in the case of your PIN, to anyone for that matter).

Also, make sure that these details can’t be obtained or guessed by criminals. So using a family member’s birthday as your PIN, or binning any documents with sensitive information without shredding them is a bad idea.

Identity takeover or identity fraud

This category of fraud is similar in nature to phishing. If a criminal has your details they can open accounts, apply for cards with their own address, or take out loans in your name. Any costs incurred you will be liable for and may have to pay. The same precautions should be taken as with regards to lost/stolen cards and phishing.

A tactic quite similar to these is known as “never received”. It involves a replacement card never reaching you as it has been intercepted by a criminal. A combination of these tactics is possible, wherein a fraudster uses phishing to obtain enough details from you to request a replacement card, with a view to intercepting the card in the post. Again, the simple steps outlined above can prevent a thief’s successful implementation of this practice.

To be extra careful (especially in the event that you suspect anything amiss has occurred), it is a great idea to periodically check your credit file to ensure no actions have been taken in your name.

More precautions

There are further steps you can take to ensure the safety of your card and identity.

In terms of staying safe online, keep your device’s virus protection up to date to avoid spyware compromising your privacy. Keep vigilant when using shared or public networks, as criminals can in some cases monitor your activity online through WiFi. It’s often best to wait until you get home to process transactions online if possible.

Furthermore, email communication is a favourite means of fraudsters to obtain your data. Suspicious or unknown emails, senders or links within emails should be avoided – delete any emails of this nature. Your provider will have a standard email address so don’t be caught out by copycat sender addresses. Never disclose your PIN or other details via email.

It bears repeating that you should never disclose your PIN to anyone, or even write it down. If you do so and are defrauded you risk losing any legal protection you have and not being able to recoup the lost funds.

And as always, you should review your card statements for any unknown purchases, and contact your provider immediately if you see something amiss.

Final points

Fraud is a real threat, but if you check your providers communication standards, keep in contact with them and protect your online and offline documentation and activities you should be fraud-proof. Other measures like checking your credit file are great steps to ensuring your identity is protected.