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Credit Card Safety
 Jul 26, 2004

Credit card theft is a serious problem and keeping your credit card safe is the best prevention from theft. In this article we will review basic credit card safety, tips on what to do when you have credit card problems, and smart shopping with your credit card.

Even though tremendous efforts have been made to curb identity fraud, it is still the fastest growing crime. And the truth is that there is no full proof way to avoid becoming a victim at some point in your life. However, there are ways to limit your risk exposure. Some people, who are very careful, can go through life without having their identities stolen. There are some good sense suggestions that can help you increase your credit card safety.

Basic credit card safety

It is important to practice basic credit card safety. Some of the good sense suggestions for basic protection include:

  • Sign the back of your card once you receive it.
  • Activate your card immediately by calling the number provided or visiting the Web address offered when you receive it.
  • Do not leave your credit card unattended. The same goes for your purse or wallet. Keep it with you at all times, or hand it directly to the person who will be processing it.
  • Memorize your personal identification number (PIN). Do not write down your PIN and carry it with you. Instead, memorize it. This way, it will not fall into the wrong hands of people who can use it to get cash advances.
  • Choose passwords and PINs carefully. Choose PINs and passwords that are not easy to guess. Birthdates, names and other easy to guess numbers and passwords should be avoided.
  • Do not lend your credit card to others. Even to good friends and family members. Always retain control of your credit card.

Smart shopping with your credit card

Part of good credit card safety is shopping smarter when you sue your card. Here are some tips for keeping your identity and your credit card safe while you are shopping:

  • Check your monthly statement regularly and carefully. Balance your statement every month. Keep track of purchases made with your credit card, and compare them to your statements. Make sure that everything matches up. If you have online account access, you can check every week in order to keep even better tabs on your account activity.
  • Report errors on your credit card statement, as well as extra charges, immediately. These could cost you later or even be indications of fraudulent use.
  • Be careful of mail and phone transactions. Try to avoid giving out your credit card number to vendors over the phone or even sending payment with credit card number through the mail. You are actually better off conducting such business online.
  • Consider a third-party payment service for online transactions. If you do not want to spread your credit card number around online, you can limit the places where it is used by using a third-party payment system. In this set up, you give you credit card number to one entity (such as PayPal, Google Checkout or Amazon Pay Now). You pay with that service, and the service charges your card. If you shop with vendors that accept third-party payment, you can reduce the number of people who could potentially see your credit card number.

When something goes wrong with your credit card

If something happens and your credit card number is stolen and used fraudulently, or if you lose your card, you need to take immediate action. Indeed, your liability can be affected by how long you wait to make a report. As soon as you know there is a problem, you need to begin taking care of it. Here are the actions you should take when your credit card is lost or stolen:

  • Report immediately if your credit card is lost or stolen. In most cases, if the thief is going to use it, it will be as soon as possible. The sooner you catch the problem the fewer fraudulent charges you will have to worry about.
  • Contact the credit bureaus. Let them know the situation, and have a fraud alert placed your credit report.
  • Contact your card company.
  • Contact local law enforcement. Keep a copy of the police report. While law enforcement rarely catches the perpetrators, the report is used as evidence that the charges are fraudulent and can affect your liability.
  • Report your problem to the government's fraud alert line.

Make sure you have a list of credit card account numbers, and the phone numbers of the credit card companies. Do not carry this with you, but keep it in a safe place. This way, you will have what you need when you go to report lost or stolen cards.

With a little common sense, you can practice good credit card safety and reduce the chances that your card will be used to ring up a large number of fraudulent charges.

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