Credit card fraud - if you have never had it happen, you are lucky. Today, we all use our credit cards more than ever - and a lot of them are "card not present" transactions - a fancy way of talking about transactions that happen online or over the phone where the vendor never sees your card.
As we shop online more and more, it becomes second nature to enter your credit card on multiple websites or even let them store it (for recurring payments and similar). You might not think about this being a problem until somebody uses your card to, not making this up, bet on greyhounds in China.
Fortunately, most credit card companies are on the ball these days and will contact you about unusual transactions. However, then you have to change your card, with all the associated hassle. It's far better to avoid being defrauded in the first place.
Worse than that, you could become a victim of identity theft - with thieves wrecking your credit score and running up huge bills in your name. You can't always stop it - but here are some precautions you can take:
- Never, ever provide your credit card number to a company in email. Email can easily be intercepted. It's not uncommon for companies in Europe to try and get you to do this. Also, do not enter your credit card on a website that is not secure - check for the little padlock in the URL or, in older browsers, https rather than http. Do not enter your card on a site with an expired security system.
- If you are providing your number over the phone, suck up any long distance charges and call them rather than asking them to call you. Make sure the company is reputable.
- Avoid letting online sites store your number unless they are reputable and you have a good reason, such as a monthly recurring bill.
- Report a lost or stolen card immediately. Keep your credit card company's lost card reporting number in your cell phone so you can call it immediately.
- If your credit card company calls you and claims there was suspicious activity on your card, hang up and call them back using the number you have. Identity thieves will sometimes pose as your bank to get extra information.
Keep yourself safe - you don't have to give up that online shopping habit, but a few simple precautions can keep your information...and bank account...safe.