A credit card being run.

Credit Card Theft Lessons

If you have never been a victim of credit card fraud? Consider yourself lucky, because I have been. Take a minute and benefit from the inconvenience that I experienced. Find out how I am preventing it from ever happening again and the things that you should do to protect your credit cards.

Finding Out Your Card Has Been Compromised

I remember it clearly. I was running on fumes and pulled up to the pump to fill my tank. The only card that I had with my was my bank card but that was fine. I knew I had several thousand dollars in the account.

I go to pay at the pump and I was declined. How could that be. Something must be wrong so I pull out my phone and check my balance. I was negative. Totally shocked, I slowly made my way home, hoping not to run out of gas and got on the computer to figure this out. Luckily, this happened on a Sunday and I didn’t have to worry about getting to work.

What I found was that someone had made about 2000 little purchases of anywhere from 15 cents to 2 dollars. They had purchased World Of Warcraft Gold, a gaming currency. I called my bank to report the issue and they issued a temporary credit pending an investigation.

As part of the investigation, I had to take a statement and mark every transaction that was not mine. That took several hours because of the volume of tiny transactions that was made, so you can imagine how fun that was.

In the end, I got my money back but it was a huge inconvenience and I swore that it would never happen again. Take a look at the precautions that I now take with my credit cards. These are things that you should be doing as well to keep from being a victim.

Caring For Your Cards

Most people tend to take their cards for granted. Sure, you are generally not liable for fraud but it is a huge inconvenience and a violation, so do what you can to stop it. Put these practices into use right away.

Computer Security

This is one of the biggest ways that frauders can get your cards. We all love to shop online but it can leave you vulnerable. You can not do much for the security of the websites that we visit, sites get hacked all the time, but we can do our part.

For starters, never enter your information on a website that is not secure. Look for the little lock in the address bar at the top of the page. Another good practice is to not enter your information on a public network or anytime you are uncertain about network security.

In addition, make sure that you keep your browser, your operating system and your virus software up to date at all times.

Gas Pumps

Gas pump skimmers have been around and they are not going anywhere.

When paying at the pump, check to make sure that the seal is not broken on the gas pump. If anything looks out of the ordinary, move on.

As far as choosing pumps, pick ones that are closer to the store itself. Think like a scammer. If you were going to install a skimmer on a pump, you would want to be out of sight. You would choose far away pumps with poor lighting. Choose just the opposite when you refuel.

For the ultimate in protection, just go inside to pay but this is understandably inconvenient.

Using Your Card

Never use your card at a place where they take it out of your view. This is just asking someone to run the card on a skimmer so that they can sell your information.

At restaurants, pay in cash instead. Your card will be safe and your server will appreciate the cash tips.

Finally, never give your card out by phone. If you do, the person on the other end is probably simply writing it down. How do you know that they are destroying that piece of paper when they are done? They probably are not.

Your Passwords

You probably have about a dozen different websites that you use on a regular basis. Most people are guilty of using the same id and password at each of those websites. A hacker can get access to a website that does not contain secure information but they then try that information on other websites. All of a sudden, they have access to your bank account and thousands of dollars.

Use at least a different password at each website and use totally random numbers. I like to use an identifier followed by a random password. Something like BOA-&*&&)BHBJGygyg. The BOA for Bank of America, would identify the website that it came from should I find my information for sale on the dark web. I know what site got hacked but the password is still random.

Also, change your passwords at least once a year. You can never be too safe.

Change Card Numbers

Most credit card companies will replace your card free of charge if it gets lost. Just give them a call and say your card was lost and they will replace it ASAP.

After a year of use, it might be a good idea to report your card stolen. This will give you a new card with new numbers. Sure, you have to update a few automatic payments but the added security makes it worthwhile.

Check Those Accounts

You need to check your accounts daily, yes daily. Seems like a headache but if you store all of your accounts in a separate folder in your browser, you can zip through them fairly quickly.

What you are looking for is activity that you did not initiate. When a credit card number is stolen, it is often tested. A frauder will pre-authorize it to see if it is good but not make a charge. Unless you are checking your account often, you could miss this because these authorizations will drop after a few days.

Catch these transactions early so that you can report it and stop any real damage from happening. Do not give them a second chance to go back and take all of your money.

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