By: Kim Schaller, Card Services Officer
Americans are expected to give their credit cards a workout this holiday season, spending hundreds of billions of dollars over the last two months of the year.
With data breaches at many well-known retailers and eateries over the last few years, consumers clearly have cause for concern about keeping their credit card information safe.
As sneaky as thieves can be in stealing card information, consumers can do a lot to protect themselves by simply exercising a little common sense. Here are 9 tips to keep you safe:
1. Practice basic credit card security
When you get a new card in the mail, it’s important to sign the back right away. Do not store your PIN in the same place as your card; if your card gets stolen, you don’t want a thief to have the PIN, as well.
2. Keep your account number private
There are a number of ways thieves can get their hands on your credit card number. To prevent this:
- Keep your card private. Don’t let anyone see it when you’re out in public.
- Don’t give your card information over the phone unless you initiated the call and you’re talking to a bank or merchant you trust.
- Never answer an email that asks for your account number or personal information, even if it looks like it’s from your bank or a reputable company or organization.
- Consider paperless statements and making payments online to remove your sensitive information from the postal system.
3. Keep your information current
Notify your bank if you move; you want to make sure your statements and other information follow you to your new address and don’t end up in anyone else’s hands. Be sure to periodically check to make sure financial institutions have your correct phone number and email address on file. This way, if anything goes wrong, you can be contacted quickly.
4. Be careful with your receipts
If you have extra space on your receipt, draw a line through it so no one can add in any additional charges or amounts. It’s also a good idea to check your receipts against your billing statements to make sure everything adds up. Shred receipts you don’t need and securely file the rest.
5. Secure your devices and networks
When securing your digital information, there are a few best practices to follow:
- Make sure your computer is equipped with a firewall. Be sure to change the password and keep the firewall turned on.
- Download and install updates to your operating system, software, and browser when prompted. These updates tend to include the most up-to-date security features.
- Install security software. The two most common types of security software are antivirus software, which protects your computer from malicious code, and anti-spyware, which keeps people from monitoring your activity. Even if you have security software, avoid downloading programs or files from unknown places.
6. Protect yourself online
Online shopping is more popular than ever, which means it’s more important than ever to protect your information online.
- Try to shop at established businesses that you can contact easily if there’s an issue.
- Look for sites with https: in their web address – the “s” stands for secured.
- Don’t just follow links from emails that you’re getting from a store that you’ve never heard of before.
- Make sure you check policies on payment, refunds, returns, and shipping.
- Finally, be sure to keep copies of any confirmation codes or receipts.
Using your smartphone to shop online or conduct other financial activities? Make sure your mobile devices are password – or fingerprint – protected. Your phone should also be equipped with security software, just like your desktop computer.
7. Keep your passwords secret
A good password is complex and combines letters and numbers – the longer the better. Avoid using details that are easy to guess (family member names or birthdays) or important information (like bank account or Social Security numbers). Change passwords periodically and pick different ones for every account – don’t use the same password for your bank account and retail sites. Don’t check that box that says to remember your info. If your log-in account or computer is compromised, the bad guys now have your credit card info, too!
8. Check your account often
Reviewing your recent account activity is fundamental to card safety…and it’s easy. You can do it online or by phone. If your card issuer offers email or text alerts about unusual activity, sign up to receive them. If you’ve been a victim of fraud or identity theft in the past, consider signing up with a credit-monitoring service. Learn more about the State Bank of Cross Plains CardValet, and set up your fraud alerts today.
9. Report lost cards and suspected fraud right away
If you lose your credit card or suspect fraudulent activity, contact your bank or card issuer right away. Your card issuer can block your card and account number so no one else can use them, then give you a new card and account number. Remember: Speed is critical. The State Bank of Cross Plains offers Instant Issue cards at our Cross Plains, Verona, Madison, Middleton West, Waunakee, and Mount Horeb locations.
Talk to a banker today to learn more about our credit card services.