A single trip to the grocery store can turn you into an identity theft victim in today’s sophisticated world. Fraudsters can easily compromise credit card swipers on point-of-sale systems to steal your credit card information
A skimmer is a common device used by scammers to get ahold of your credit card details. This discrete device stores critical information, such as your credit card number, expiration date, and name. Your credit card information can be in the hands of a scammer seconds after you swipe your card. Unfortunately, credit card fraud isn’t going anyway anytime soon – consumers lose more than $24 billion to fraud annually.
Fortunately, there are various ways to prevent credit card fraud. Financial institutions have already taken many steps to mitigate fraud, such as rolling out EMV chip card technology. However, as a consumer, you also play a role. Anyone with a credit or debit card should be mindful of the best ways to prevent credit card fraud. Although you can never wholly avoid fraud, you can lower your chances of becoming a victim.
You should always be careful when using a credit or debit card to pay for goods or services, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar area. These are the most dangerous places to swipe your credit card:
There’s a lot of foot traffic in retail stores, making them susceptible to credit card fraud. These companies invest a lot in anti-fraud technology. However, there’s always an underlying risk that someone could steal your identity. You can become a victim of identity theft by shopping at retail stores in-person or online. For instance, major retailers such as Target and TJ Maxx have suffered catastrophic data breaches in the past.
Restaurants are a hotspot for credit card fraud, especially if you live in the United States. In some countries, the server brings out a mobile point of sale system and collects your payments in front of you. Servers in the United States typically take your card out of view. A waiter could quickly write down your credit card number, expiration date, and security code. Always trust your gut; use cash instead if you don’t feel good about handing over your card.
Automated teller machines (ATMs) are great when you need cash. Still, they’re inarguably one of the riskiest places to use your credit card. Many ATMs are in areas where there isn’t a lot of monitoring, such as a low-traffic gas station or parking garage. Fraudsters can easily install skimmers to quickly capture your credit card information and make purchases in your name. Unfortunately, thieves have broken the code and can get information from chip cards with a shimmer device.
One of the best ways to prevent credit card fraud is always to be extra cautious when purchasing items online. Make sure the website has an SSL certificate (you’ll see a padlock on the left-hand corner of your browser). Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encrypts transactional data, making it extremely challenging for a criminal to intercept it. Moreover, you should always look at the website’s URL and ensure there’s nothing funky. Scammers often replicate websites and list products at prices too good to be true.
The fraudsters change one character in the name or add a word at the end. For example, a scammer might call the website “Nike Shop” instead of “Nike.” If you purchase one of these sites, you’ll be out the money, and the cybercriminals will have your credit card information.
How to Protect Your Credit Card Information
Every time you make a purchase, carefully examine the checkout (for an online store) or the POS if you’re shopping in person. Over time, you’ll gain a good understanding of what appears legitimate and what doesn’t. You don’t have to avoid the riskiest places to use your credit card, but you may want to use cash instead. Furthermore, always contact your credit card company and put a hold on your card if you fall victim to identity theft.