How credit card information is stolen and what to do about it – Forbes Advisor

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Credit cards can be a convenient way to spend hard-earned money, but they can also be a convenient way for thieves to steal someone else’s money. Credit card numbers can be stolen without your knowledge. Until you notice a fraudulent charge on your monthly statement, you may have no idea your information has been stolen. Credit cards can be stolen in a variety of ways: through physical card theft, through data breaches, by card skimmers, and the list goes on. Zero liability protections can keep you from being financially liable for fraud, but credit card theft is still an inconvenience at best and a nightmare at worst.

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How credit card information is stolen

Card information can be stolen in many ways, from physical card theft to cybercrime.

Theft or loss of credit card

Theft of a physical credit card can occur in several ways. Losing a wallet or having a credit card stolen is always a possibility, especially when traveling. A new card can also be stolen from your mailbox before you have a chance to get it. If you lose or have your credit card stolen, contact the issuer immediately to have the card number changed and the card replaced. It’s also possible to block a credit card if you think the card has simply been misplaced, but you still want to be protected.

Card skimmers

Some credit card thieves install skimmers on card readers. Skimmers are most commonly found on publicly accessible credit card readers, such as those at self-service pumps at gas stations, but have also been found in other less guarded locations or at cash registers in grocery stores. detail. Chip technology has disrupted the success of this method, but it is still possible for a thief to copy card information, store it, and use it later to make fraudulent purchases. If your card is skimmed, you won’t know your information has been stolen until a fraudulent charge appears on your account.

Data Breaches

Big banks and other companies sometimes suffer from data breaches. Data breaches are usually the result of activities carried out by sophisticated, experienced and well-organized cybercriminals. Many retailers, loyalty programs, websites, and other organizations hold pieces of your personal information, but your bank probably holds the most information about you that would be of interest to someone trying to impersonate you. Not only do banks store account numbers and names, they also store dates of birth, social security numbers, identification numbers, addresses and credit card numbers – anything a thief needs. need to compromise an identity.

If your information is stolen in a data breach, you probably won’t know unless the affected company notifies you. If you discover a breach, you should change account numbers, monitor your credit reports, and be alert to anyone using your information to impersonate you or trick you into disclosing personal information such as personal information. bank account identification. It may also be worth employing an identity theft protection service to help you do this job.

Phishing emails and calls

Fraudsters can send fake, official-looking emails from banks or large retail stores asking you to click on a link or call a phone number and provide personal information such as account IDs or your social security number. Or you may receive a call regarding an “emergency” requiring proof of identity. These types of messages trick the stranger into providing names, birth dates, credit card numbers, and other personal information. Never provide personal information or account credentials in response to an unsolicited phone call or email. Do not open links found in spam or other questionable emails. If you’re ever suspicious of a link from your bank, opening a new browser window and going to your bank’s website instead of clicking a link in an email is your safest bet.

Public Wi-Fi networks

Although virtually all financial institutions and most e-commerce websites use encryption, exercise extreme caution when using public Wi-Fi networks. If you need to use public Wi-Fi, make sure the website you’re using is secure. Both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge will show a padlock in the address bar if a site uses encryption. For added security and some protection against unencrypted websites, you can use a VPN (virtual private network) service, which encrypts your internet traffic between your computer and the VPN provider. Do not use unsecured networks to make purchases or access personal data whenever possible.

What to do when credit card information is stolen

When you discover a fraudulent charge, immediately call your credit card issuer to report the unauthorized charge. By law, you are not responsible for fraudulent charges on your credit card after you report it missing, and your liability is limited to $50 for unauthorized charges before you report your card missing. Most card issuers offer zero fraud liability. In most cases, if you immediately report suspected fraud, you will not be liable for any unwanted charges, regardless of the amount. A card issuer will typically issue a temporary refund while the company investigates a disputed charge, which sometimes takes 30-90 days.

If your credit card information is stolen, your identity may have been too. Freeze your credit until you can determine if your identity is safe.

Fraud detection

Credit card companies have sophisticated fraud detection and alert systems. One way to be alerted to possible fraudulent activity on your account is to sign up for text, call, or email alerts. These alerts can notify you if the issuer detects suspected fraud and often allow you to confirm or deny a suspicious charge. If a charge is indeed fraudulent, the issuer will cancel the compromised card and issue a new one as soon as possible.

Remember that you can request a new card and account number from your issuer at any time, even before fraud occurs. Do this if you think your card has been lost or stolen.

How to be proactive

While it can be tricky to prevent credit card information from being stolen, there are several ways to be proactive in protecting your information:

  • Regularly check account activity online or by mail. Monitoring your account activity will allow you to catch fraud as soon as it occurs.
  • Do not give out personal information in response to an incoming email or call. If someone calls you asking for personal information like a credit card number, assume it’s a scam.
  • Check credit reports at least once a year to confirm credit activity. All three major credit bureaus allow one free credit check per year.
  • Only buy items online from well-known and secure websites. Always look for the lock icon in your web browser’s address bar before entering personal information on an online website. Stay away from unknown e-commerce websites and be wary of websites that ask for additional personal information when making a purchase.
  • Do not store credit card information on online retail sites. Some retail sites may recommend that you store card information for faster payment. This could lead to problems later on, especially if the business suffers a data breach.
  • Keep credit cards that you don’t use regularly at home. If a credit card is only used on special occasions, keep it at home to prevent it from being stolen when not in use.

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You may not be able to prevent all possible identity theft, but there are things you can do to reduce this possibility and catch fraud early. If you think your credit card number may be compromised, ask your card issuer for a new card. Card issuers will always issue a new card in case of fraud (or even for a lost credit card.) Many issuers offer zero liability protection that protects you against unauthorized charges. Zero liability protection makes credit cards a safe choice for making purchases, especially when traveling. Finally, be sure to regularly check online account activity and only use known secure websites to buy things online.

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