Now that Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Money and Giving Tuesday are over (!), your credit cards may have had a quite a workout. Over the years I find that the holidays can be a hectic time, filled with a flurry of transactions, paper receipts… and opportunity for fraud. Let me share some tips in keeping your credit cards and identity safe this holiday season.
Take Advantage of New Chip Technology
Banks and credit card companies are now issuing cards embedded with microchips. This feature adds extra protection from counterfeit fraud. Most likely you’ve heard about fraudsters copying card numbers, creating bogus cards or using account numbers to make purchases online. StatisticBrain reported that 10% of Americans have been victims of credit card fraud. Of those instances of fraud, 37% are caused by counterfeit credit cards!
Here’s how these new microchips work. When you swipe your card a unique transaction code is generated. That code is only good for that transaction. Smart, huh? So take advantage of this new technology by:
- Checking to see if your bank and credit card companies have issued a new card with a microchip. If you’ve recently received a new card, activate it and shred the old one.
- If you still have the old style of plastic without the microchip for your debit and credit cards, call your bank and ask when you’ll receive one.
- Shopping at retailers who have the new microchip card readers at the register.
While I love the idea of a smarter card, there is one drawback to the new system. You put your card into the register’s reader throughout the transaction. As a result, it’s so easy to accidentally leave your card behind once you’ve signed and collected your receipt.
Set-Up Real-Time Alerts
If your inbox is anything like mine, you are reluctant to sign up for any more emails or text messages. However fraud alerts can nip fraud in the bud.
Here’s a real example. One of my clients uses a PayPal debit card; she gets an email notifications after every transaction. This saved her from a huge headache and financial mess. She knew about the fraudulent transaction seconds after it was authorized. After a simple phone call, PayPal froze the account and issued a new card. She received a refund in about a week. This happened all because she had alerts set up on her account.
Check Your Accounts Online
Accessing your accounts via online banking is another great way of keeping fraud at bay. Thanks to improved technology, you can review when transactions post, double-check merchant names, locations and amounts online. Many banks now offer apps that you can download onto your smartphone; you can keep track of your finances from anywhere. Even if you monitor your accounts online or via phone, I still recommend reconciling your accounts at least monthly.
Phishing, PINS & Passwords
My holiday list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning something about phishing, PINs and passwords.
- Phishing relates to emails, texts or phone calls from scam artists posing as your bank. Don’t fall for the bait. Unless you contacted them directly, be very wary.
- Keep your Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) separate from with your debit and credit cards. Don’t carry PINs in your wallet or purse. If your wallet is lost or stolen. having your cards and PINs together are a recipe for disaster. Thieves have all they need to withdraw cash from ATMs and drain your accounts.
- Online banking passwords should be complex so they aren’t easy to guess. We often hear about data breaches in the news, many of which involve the use of automated software to guess passwords. If you do use a hard-to-guess password and must write it down, keep it in a safe place (not in the desk drawer beneath your computer). Consider using an online vault program, one that generates really tough passwords. Or, store passwords in an encrypted spreadsheet.
Let me know if you’re interested in other holiday financial tips or ways to handle messy finances in the New Year.
How will you keep your credit cards safe this holiday season?