Guard Those Credit Cards

Shopping, travel or dining out during the holidays means your credit cards are leaving your wallet more often. There are easy ways to decrease the chances of having your cards lost, stolen or compromised.

The holidays are the peak time to be using debit and credit cards. Shopping, dining and travel means your cards are leaving your wallet more often, and this increases the chances of having one lost, stolen or compromised.

Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself from fraud, and minimize the impact if you do become a victim.

If you do end up having your card stolen, first, call the police and file a report. It helps to always know the contents of your purse or wallet, or at least have them documented somewhere safe. Then, contact your financial institution and report the card stolen. They can immediately block it and send a new one.  Next, watch for fraudulent charges, and immediately file a dispute if you see anything suspicious. You shouldn’t be liable for the charges, as long as you report them quickly.

Of course, your card doesn’t actually have to be stolen for you to experience fraud. A lot of card fraud is perpetuated by creating a duplicate card. The information is stolen, usually during a legitimate transaction, and used to create a new card.  This happens in several ways, and knowing what to watch for will help you avoid being a victim. One common source of card fraud is a skimmer – a device that scans cards to steal information. These are sometimes attached to gas pumps or ATMs, which are outdoors and not easily monitored all the time. Another frequent skimming method is at restaurants, where a server might take the card to process payment for a meal, and then swipe it through another device to grab the card data. Always be vigilant of where you use your card. If anything looks suspect, report it.

There are other ways to prevent fraud and protect yourself. Locally, Coastal Credit Union offers its members CardNav, a smartphone app that allows you to lock a card when not in use, and then unlock it when it’s needed. The app also enables users to set restrictions on how and where the card can be used. These may keep someone from using it fraudulently before you’re able to report it as stolen, even if they physically have the card.

Next, opt for chip or smartphone transactions instead of swiping the magnetic stripe. These create an encrypted code that makes it harder for the card data to be stolen. Remember, though, the chip only secures the transaction. Using a chip card for less secure transaction types increases your risk.

Finally, monitor your accounts regularly and set up transaction alerts to get notified by text or email each time your card is used. As an added bonus, not only is this useful for catching fraudulent activity, it may even help you stick to your holiday budget!

Joe Mecca is Vice President for Communications at Coastal Federal Credit Union.

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