Credit Card Fraud & Identity Theft Prevention Tips

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tablet device showing a credit reportPlanning a vacation this year? And thinking about bringing along a credit card or two for company? Now imagine that your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Rome is interrupted by a pickpocket who makes off with your credit cards.

Do you have a plan for a situation like this?  Obviously, you need to act fast to prevent credit card fraud.

What number do you call to cancel your card, and would you even be able to tell them the number of the stolen card? These are just some of the obvious risks that we never seem to worry about until it’s too late.

But knowing the kinds of problems and pitfalls that are out there can make the difference.

Here is a run-down of the kinds of credit card frauds and scams you might come across, at home or in your travels, and what you can do to avoid them.

• Keyloggers are malicious programs installed on your computer either because you opened an infected file, downloaded an infected file or visited an infected web site. Once installed, the keylogger can steal credit card numbers and account passwords.

• Theft at work is still a major problem, and dishonest co-workers can simply open your purse or wallet, take out your credit cards, write down a card number, expiration date, and card verification number and then replace the cards.

• Skimming is a growing problem, especially in supermarkets and restaurants, where thieves use a rigged credit card reader to copy the contents of your debit or credit card.

• Phishing uses increasingly clever emails that will try to trick you into giving up a bank account password.

• Pharming relies on bogus web sites created to look like those of your bank, credit union or credit card company in the hope that you’ll be careless enough to reveal some priceless information.

• Bogus web sites like those that sell the latest gadgets and must-haves for iPhones, for example, will soon be popping up everywhere. Beware…those sites are usually just traps designed to get you to give up your credit card number.As usual, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself from credit card fraud and identity theft. And for the most part, they boil down to simply using common sense:

•  Keep credit cards to a minimum, and when you go out, take only the one you need.

•  Check your statements regularly to detect any suspicious charges.

•  Monitor your credit reports to get early warning of attempts to obtain new credit under your name.

•  Never buy from spam e-mail, as it’s often just an attempt to steal your credit card number.

•  Don’t shop on web sites you don’t know.

•  If you’re not familiar with a store or restaurant, when possible, pay with cash instead of credit cards to avoid the risk of skimming.

•  Keep a photocopy of all credit cards so you can quickly respond if your card is stolen. Also, keep a list of emergency phone numbers for your card companies.

Report any unauthorized transactions immediately. This is essential if you want to make sure you’re not held responsible for unauthorized charges.   Opt out from pre-approved offers to minimize the risk of these offers being intercepted by thieves. Shred pre-approved offers so an imposter can’t use them to apply for new credit in your name.

You are your own credit watch dog, and common sense may be your most valuable weapon against credit card fraud.

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