The holiday season is a time of joy and generosity, but also a time of increased risk for your credit and bank cards.
Whether you’re buying gifts online or in person, you need to be vigilant about protecting your cards from hackers and fraudsters who want to ruin your festive mood and steal your money and identity.
That’s why it’s important to follow some simple steps to keep your cards safe and secure, no matter where or how you shop.
How to keep your cards and data secure when using your card in person
Your card is a valuable tool for making payments, but it also carries some risks. Fraudsters can use various methods to steal your card information or PIN and use it for unauthorized transactions. To prevent this, you need to take some precautions when using your card in person. Here are some tips to help you protect your cards and data from fraud.
Protect your PIN: Your Personal Identification Number (PIN) is the gateway to your funds. Never share your PIN with anyone or write it down where it can be easily discovered. Always cover the keypad while entering your PIN. Be cautious of skimming devices attached to ATMs, which can stealthily capture your card information.
Be alert and aware: When using your card in person, be aware of your surroundings and watch out for any signs of tampering or skimming on the card reader. If something looks suspicious, do not use the card reader and report it to the merchant or the authorities. Also, be careful of anyone who tries to distract you or offer you help while you are using your card. They may be trying to steal your card or PIN. There is an increased risk of card theft, and fraud is higher in certain places like gas stations, restaurants, and bars.
Travel safely: When traveling, inform your bank or credit card company about your plans to avoid potential holds on your account due to unusual activity. Keep your cards in a secure location and avoid displaying them in public.
Use contactless payments: Contactless payments are a convenient and secure way to pay with your card without inserting it into a terminal or handing it over to a cashier. You can use your card, smartphone, or wearable device to tap and pay at participating merchants. Contactless payments use encryption and tokenization to protect your card information from fraudsters.
Use chip over magnetic strip: Whenever possible, opt for using the chip on your card rather than the magnetic strip. Chip technology offers enhanced security against cloning and fraud.
Opt for using an RFID credit card: RFID credit cards, also called contactless or tap-to-pay cards, come equipped with a tag for contactless payments, one of the safest ways to pay. RFID technology sends information between a tag and a scanner using radio waves.
The scanner emits radio waves that pick up signals from nearby items with RFID tags, which also send out radio waves. RFID cards can best be protected by keeping the cards either in a sleeve or keeping the cards in an RFID-protecting wallet or case. You’ll usually be able to tell if a credit card is RFID enabled by the contact list symbol on the front or back of the card. It looks like a sideways Wi-Fi symbol.
How to protect your card and personal information online
Use strong passwords: Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols for your online accounts and change them regularly. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts or websites. Consider using a password manager to store and generate secure passwords.
Shop securely: When shopping online, look for the padlock icon or “https” in the address bar of your browser, which indicates that the website is secure. Use a credit card or a reputable payment service that offers fraud protection. Avoid using public Wi-Fi or computers to make online transactions.
Use card features: Many banks offer card features that allow you to control and monitor your card’s usage. Set up transaction alerts and notifications to stay informed about any unusual activity.
Consider an RFID-blocking wallet. Even a physical wallet can be digitally pickpocketed, meaning someone can use a device to scan your phone’s wallet and rob you without you even taking it out of your pocket. RFID-blocking wallets use a layer of aluminum or carbon fiber to make it more difficult for your card’s chip to be scanned without you knowing. Find my top recommendations for RFID-blocking wallets here.
Regularly monitor your account: Routinely review your bank and credit card statements to detect any unauthorized or suspicious transactions promptly. Report any discrepancies to your financial institution immediately.
Report lost or stolen cards immediately: In case your card is lost or stolen, report it to your bank or card issuer immediately to prevent unauthorized use. Most banks have 24/7 hotlines for this purpose.
Be cautious with emails and phone calls: Beware of phishing emails. Phishing is a fraudulent attempt to obtain your personal or financial information through emails, texts, or calls that appear to be from legitimate sources. Do not click on links or attachments from unknown or suspicious senders. Also, do not provide any sensitive information over the phone or online unless you are sure of the identity and authenticity of the requester.
Have good antivirus software on all your devices: The best way to protect yourself from having your data breached is to have antivirus protection installed on all your devices. Having good antivirus software actively running on your devices will alert you of any malware in your system, warn you against clicking on any malicious links in phishing emails, and ultimately protect you from being hacked.
Don’t use credit cards online on public WiFi: Public WiFi networks are not secure and can be easily hacked. Therefore, it is best to avoid using public WiFi networks for online financial transactions.
How digital wallets can help to protect your financial information
Digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay offer advanced security features to protect your financial information. These wallets store your payment options, including credit and debit cards, allowing you to use your smartphone or smartwatch for convenient and secure transactions.
They use Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to process payments, which is a secure way to transmit data between devices. NFC technology activates when you wave your digital wallet-enabled device in front of a contactless reader for a few seconds, ensuring secure payment processing.
Other secure solutions for online transactions
PayPal: A frontrunner in the online payment arena, PayPal offers a secure method for sending and receiving money digitally. By linking your bank account, debit, or credit cards to your PayPal account, you can execute transactions without exposing your financial details to third parties. PayPal’s robust security features, like encrypted transactions and fraud protection, make it a reliable choice for online purchases and financial transfers.
Venmo: A popular mobile payment service, Venmo simplifies making payments and transferring funds between users. It safeguards your financial information with end-to-end encryption and strengthens security with two-factor authentication.
I’ve been scammed! What to do next?
Below are some next steps if you find you or your loved one is a victim of identity theft.
1) If you can regain control of your accounts, change your passwords and inform the account provider.
2) Look through bank statements and checking account transactions to see where outlier activity started.
3) Use a Fraud protection service. Identity Theft companies can monitor personal information like your Social Security Number (SSN), phone number, and email address and alert you if it is being sold on the dark web or being used to open an account. They can also assist you in freezing your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals. Read more of my review of best identity theft protection services here.
4) Report any breaches to official government agencies like the Federal Communications Commission.
5) You may wish to get the professional advice of a lawyer before speaking to law enforcement, especially when you are dealing with criminal identity theft, and if being a victim of criminal identity theft leaves you unable to secure employment or housing
6) Run your own background check or request a copy of one if that is how you discovered your information has been used by a criminal.
7) Alert all three major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You can freeze or lock your credit report through their websites or dedicated apps: You’ll also want to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
If you are a victim of identity theft, the most important thing to do is to take immediate action to mitigate the damage and prevent further harm.
Kurt’s key takeaway
This in-depth guide provides the latest recommendations for securing credit and bank cards offline. Key strategies include vigilant monitoring, using secure apps, understanding liability policies, leveraging advanced technologies like digital wallets and RFID, and being aware of high-risk locations. Regular credit monitoring, secure online practices, and preparedness for emerging threats are essential to safeguard your financial information against unauthorized access and fraud. This guidance is meant to reduce your exposure and better protect your assets.
Have you ever had someone try to use your card without your knowing? Have you ever received a security alert about suspicious activity? Do you feel better protected with the new mobile solutions and alerts? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact
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