By Attorney William Umansky
Special to THELAW.TV
With Black Friday and Christmas and Hanukkah fast approaching, consumers will be shopping in huge numbers over the next month. Unfortunately, credit card thieves will also be out in greater numbers and you must be careful when making purchases with your credit card. Here are the top seven things you can do to protect yourself from credit card fraud.
1. Guard your credit card information as if it was your life!
Don't give your card to an unknown online vendor UNLESS you have checked out the business thoroughly, including any Better Business Bureau accreditation and any Internet reviews.
Don't leave your credit cards, receipts, and statements laying around anywhere and be extra diligent shredding anything with an account number on it. Yes, there are still companies that illegally put your whole number on the card!
Don't let anyone borrow your card for any reason! A friend today can be a thief tomorrow. Just don't ever give your card away.
Keep your card separate from your wallet and make sure you only take the cards you intend to use.
2. Protect your credit card information online.
You will use passwords and usernames in accessing your account statements online. Remember to close out your browser and clear your history and cache so a hacker or another user will not be able to get your information.
3. Be extra careful and watch out for phishing scams.
A business or bank that you appear to know may prompt you by email to "verify" your account using personal information. NEVER do that. Ever! More than likely a thief is lying in wait to get your information. Even if the site looks legitimate, don't be tempted. Call the institution (not the number the email provides) and verify, verify, and triple verify.
4. Monitor your credit card statements monthly.
Examine, and I do mean examine, your monthly statement. Any unusual vendors? Any strange or duplicate charge amounts? Any out of country charges you never made? Check your statement every month line by line!
5. NEVER write your account numbers down anywhere.
Don't email your card information and do not ever scan a picture of your card and text or email it to anyone.
Don't ever write your numbers down on a post it, envelope, or other piece of scrap paper.
6. Make sure that you never let the card out of your visual site when you make a purchase.
When buying anything, watch the person taking your card. Make sure they are not double billing, and make sure they are not copying your card or taking a photo of your card. Make sure they do not leave the room and go to another room with your card. Watch out for "I will be right back sir, I just have to run your card in the back as the machine is down." Never let a vendor do that to you.
7. Report all fraud immediately.
This goes without saying. Once you suspect credit card fraud, contact your company immediately so they can take immediate measures.
Take these steps this holiday season and happy shopping!
The author, William Umansky, is a criminal defense attorney in Orlando, Florida. His firm has represented hundreds of people accused of or arrested for credit card fraud.
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