Ask anyone about identity theft and they’ll either tell you horror stories about their own experiences or relate what happened to family members and friends. There are few people untouched by some kind of credit fraud these days. And half the time it has to do with security breaches at major retailers (Target, Home Depot, Sony, etc.) or even banking or credit institutions (JP Morgan Chase). Even so, there are certainly steps you can take to better protect your debit and credit cards. Here are a few helpful tips to keep your identity and your credit safe.
- Be careful who you give information to. Phishing scams have become very sophisticated these days, with scammers going so far as to send emails that look official and even contain some of your personal information. And when you click on a link, you’ll be routed to a page that looks a lot like the real thing. But whether clicking a link allows scammers to install spyware on your computer (keystroke loggers, for example) or you are prompted to enter login information on a faux homepage, you’re virtually inviting them in and giving them all they need to steal your identity. So if you think an email is authentic, simply contact the listed company directly rather than clicking a link. And beware of vishing (voice phishing) scams, as well, where scammers call you and say they’re from your bank or other institutions. Never give out sensitive data over the phone – hang up and call the company directly to verify.
- Shop secure websites. Before you enter debit or credit card information online to complete a transaction, always make sure to look for the lock icon to ensure that the page is secure. This icon lets you know that the information you’re sending is encrypted.
- Check accounts frequently. If you check your accounts regularly, you’ll quickly notice any fraudulent charges that show up, giving you time to shut down your account and stop further charges.
- Ask about EMV. Because of the growth of identity theft, credit fraud, and security breaches, some banks and credit card companies are moving away from magnetic strip technology and focusing instead on the increased security offered by computer chips embedded in cards. EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa, and these are the companies pushing this advance in credit security. Whereas magnetic strips store credit information that is read when cards are swiped, EMV chips generate a one-time code for every purchase. So if the data is stolen, thieves will be unable to use it to make subsequent purchases. If you want the best protection for your bank and credit card accounts, make sure you’re using cards equipped with this technology.
- Go paperless. You’ve probably received plenty of notices from banking and credit card institutions about going paperless. This not only saves these companies money on printing out paper statements, but it also works in your favor, security-wise. Even if you shred documents containing sensitive, personal data, thieves could dig through your trash and piece them back together. No paper means no chance for dumpster divers to steal your information. So do your part for the environment and the security of your credit accounts. Whether you bank with1st Financial Federal Credit Union or you rely heavily on credit cards, find out if going paperless is an option.