Unfortunately, the huge increase in credit card use over the past several years has motivated thieves to become very creative in finding ways to obtain your account information in order to defraud you and the vendors and credit card companies you deal with.

Fraud can range from a person rummaging through a dumpster for sensitive information to a sophisticated hacker stealing credit card numbers online from a vendor or financial institution. There are also schemes where thieves obtain personal information by offering “free” vacations or memberships as a way to obtain credit card information. The good news is that those of us who are targeted are not completely helpless. Many banks and credit card companies have sophisticated monitoring systems that automatically freeze accounts if suspicious activity is detected that falls outside what is considered a “normal” purchase based on your prior spending patterns.

You can actively participate in fraud monitoring by contacting your bank and credit card companies to sign up for services that automatically send email notifications to you with every purchase associated with your card.

While you can’t always prevent credit card fraud, you can easily incorporate a few simple Risk Management practices into your daily routine to help keep your accounts safe:

  • Treat your cards as if they were cash.
  • Keep cards in a secure place and away from prying eyes.
  • Do not loan cards to friends or family members.
  • Only carry the cards you need.
  • Do not give out card or account numbers to any unknown person over the phone.
  • Research vendors before making purchases.
  • During a transaction, try to maintain visual contact with the card and make sure you get it back.
  • Never sign a blank receipt and line through any blank spaces above the total.
  • Save your receipts to compare against your statement.
  • Reconcile your statement with the receipts that you’ve saved.
  • Maintain a secure record of your account details and the phone numbers for their Service Centers.
  • Notify the Service Center immediately if there is any suspicious activity.
  • Notify the Service Center if your mailing address, email address, or phone number change.
  • Notify the Service Center if you will be traveling.
  • Hire a vendor that provides credit monitoring and identify theft services.

The following practices apply specifically to website purchases:

  • Do not make website purchases from links in unsolicited emails.
  • Do not assume website purchases are safe.
  • Ensure websites are secure by making sure the URL bar says “https” instead of “http.”
  • Check the Better Business Bureau’s site to verify the vendor’s name and other relevant information.
  • When dealing with foreign vendors, always be very cautious.
  • Always log off from any website after a purchase transaction is made with your credit or debit card.
  • Use a credit card instead of using other forms of payment because credit card companies actively address disputes if something goes wrong.