If your card is chip-enabled, use the chip and PIN method of authentication whenever possible. Just as technology has improved, card skimmers are harder to recognize and while the chip isn’t invulnerable to hacking, most cards were compromised by swiping instead of using chip and PIN. A recent study by Gemini Advisory has shown that, in the US, approximately 45 million chip-enabled cards were compromised at the point of sale. The key is to be aware—whether at an ATM, gas pump or the checkout counter. Many machines are configured in a way that makes it easy for criminals to install a skimmer which captures the information and PIN number from your card. If in doubt, pay with cash or check.
Using a social media account to log into other websites is tempting—after all, it’s much easier than creating an account with a unique username and password for every site. The problem surfaces when your social media account gets hacked, then every site you use it to log into is also vulnerable. Most people save payment information to their online shopping accounts. The hacker would then be able to purchase goods with your credit card. Facebook recently had a breach that exposed almost 50 million users to this type of theft.
Even if you don’t use social media accounts to log into online shopping portals, you might still be re-using your password from one shopping site to another. As with using social media accounts, it can be tempting to use the same password for multiple services—we all know it’s difficult to remember all those different passwords! Many sites use your email address as the username, so if any of your accounts get compromised, there is a trail to all your other accounts for the criminal to follow. Password managers can help you keep up with your different login credentials—a safer option than re-using passwords.
There are undoubtedly great deals online. Some are too good to be true. If you’ve found a great deal on an online store you’re unfamiliar with, take a minute and do some quick research and read some reviews left on sites that aren’t the website in question. You might find out it’s a scam or that it is everything it was advertised to be. Either way, you’ll feel more informed about the amazing find you’ve just discovered.
No matter how vigilant you are, your accounts can still be compromised. One free tool you should take advantage of is your bank’s free notification services. You can set up alerts via text or email for transactions with specific parameters including any attempts to open new lines of credit. Do this for all credit, debit cards and accounts. This allows you to call the bank the moment any fraud occurs. Rapid response to credit theft is the best way to protect yourself. If you notify the bank within 48hrs, you will likely only be charged $50, however, if you wait 60 days, it can go up to $500. Many banks won’t charge you anything if you call within the 48-hour window.