During the holidays, credit card fraud attackers are just as jolly as Santa with their bag of tricks and ways to swindle consumers out of holiday cheer. Don't be "Grinched" this season; take measures to protect your money and avoid having someone take a joy ride on your good credit.
Swipe and Sign
The swipe and sign method applies to those who use their debit card. While using your debit card for holiday shopping is smart in terms of keeping your budget under control, criminals have become more adept at figuring out how to glean your personal identification number (PIN) from the machine after you've used it.
Most financial institutions advise customers to always sign for a debit purchase whenever possible. A signature based transaction is harder for a thief to mimic than simply nabbing your PIN. Also, instead of signing the back of your card, print "Ask for I.D." instead. Although many merchants are asking for identification more often, many will simply check the back of the card for a signature and send you on your merry way.
A great gift this holiday season is a personal shredder because you'll need it to destroy all credit card receipts (once you no longer need them) and invoices. One of the easiest ways to obtain someone's credit card number is to dumpster dive and grab the paperwork. Shredding your receipts and paperwork will remove the possibility of a paper trail to your number.
Never Provide Your Credit Card to an Unverified Source
A new trick is the follow up phone call from a familiar vendor such as your credit card company, bank or a popular merchant. The scheme is that the caller needs to "verify your credit card number" over the phone. Hang up immediately and call your credit card company, bank or merchant to determine if the call was a scam. Chances are, you were contacted by a malicious source and not someone you do business with on a regular basis.
Read Your Mail
If you simply scan your mail to identify the pieces you know and toss the pieces you don't, you could be putting yourself at risk for credit card fraud. Criminals can open a credit card account in another person's name then charge thousands of dollars.
One indicator that you've been scammed is when the bank sends you a letter regarding your new account; however, if you don't check the mail on a regular basis, you could mistake an important notification for a credit card solicitation and disregard it. You should also shred credit card solicitations because information such as your address and name is written directly on the envelope--ripe for stealing.
Whether your credit card information was stolen online or the thief went the old school route and lifted your credit card out of your purse, take action immediately. Notify your credit card company or bank and explain your situation. According to U.S. law, you are only held accountable for up to $50 of the unauthorized charges once you've reported your credit card stolen.
Gina Ragusa is a freelance writer and mom from sunny (and sometimes not) South Florida. Her 15 year experience ranges from writing about banking to tattoo parlors. Read more about her adventures at http://blog.wahm.com/