How to Protect Yourself from Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud is a booming business. Thieves helped themselves to £388 million of other people's credit in 2012 alone. Fraudsters use a variety of means to get hold of your credit card details, and sometimes your pin (although they don't always need it), and then they can spend, spend, spend. In one case TotallyMoney heard about fraudsters wracking up a £14,000 credit card bill in just three weeks. Being a victim is unnerving, inconvenient and, in some cases, costly. But the good news is it's relatively easy to protect yourself from becoming a victim. Once you know the tricks the fraudsters use, it's easy to prevent yourself falling victim to the con artists.
The Common Tricks Used by Thieves
Many people who lose money to fraudsters have been victims of simple distraction and theft techniques. Thieves often ‘shoulder surf’ their victims by watching them input their pin whilst paying for something in a bar, shop or restaurant. Loud and busy places are havens for this type of theft, and young people are often targeted while out in busy pubs. Thieves will watch a pin being entered and then steal the card, often without the victim noticing. By the time the victim realises the card has gone, the thief has gone on a spending spree.
- Don't be a victim: Always shield you pin when paying for goods or withdrawing cash.
Another common way thieves get hold of your credit card details is skimming. This is where you hand your card over to a bartender or waiter/waitress and they disappear off with it to get the card machine. While they are away - if they're up to no good - they'll run your card through a skimming device that captures your card details. They can then use those details to use your card - they don't need your pin, they just use it online or sign for purchases.
- Don't let your card out of your sight: When you're paying in a bar or restaurant ask for the card machine to be brought to you. If that's not possible go with your card to the machine.
Cash Machine Bandits
Another common trick is to distract people when at cash machines, perhaps by suggesting you have dropped money on the floor. By the time you’ve looked up, your money and card have been stolen.
- Be alert: Keep an eye out for people lingering too close when you're using a cash machine and don't become distracted.
- Keep your eyes peeled: Never use a machine that appears to have been tampered with or has a strange device attached, as this could be used to skim your card details.
There are many ways to trick people into voluntarily giving out their card details. Some fraudsters will ring up pretending to be your bank and ask for your card details or pin. Others will claim that you have won the lottery, or are due a tax rebate, and must hand over your bank details so the money can be deposited.
Fraudsters can be incredibly sophisticated, convincing and persuasive.
These cold-calls may sound like obvious hoaxes, but fraudsters can be incredibly sophisticated, convincing and persuasive. They may even pretend to be from the fraud department at your bank and offer to collect your credit cards and pin via a courier because the details have been compromised. Before you know it, your cards and pin have been stolen without you even leaving your house.
- **Be on your guard: **If anyone ever calls you asking for your pin number or security details don't give them out. If they say they're from your bank say you will call them back. Then find the official number for your bank and call that, chances are your bank will know nothing about the phone call.
Email and Text Message Scams
It is even easier for criminals to scam people via email or text message. So called ‘phishing emails’ purport to be from your bank or a shop and ask you to click on a link to confirm your credit card details. The link is to a fraudulent website where criminals can record everything you type. Once they have your credit card number, security code, name and address, they can go on a spending spree with your money. Other fraudulent emails may claim to be collecting money for charity, or may even ask you to help them transfer some money overseas and take a cut of the proceeds yourself. Some will encourage you to invest in fine wine, others will offer you a ‘preapproved’ loan for an upfront fee. Fraudsters are always finding new ways to trick people but all emails ultimately involve you handing over your personal and financial details.
- Use your common sense: If you receive and email or text offering you something that sounds to good to be true, it probably is. If you aren't sure do some research into the person or company making you this fantastic offer, a quick internet search will usually show you if they are legitimate or scammers.
- Don't click on links: If you receive an email from your bank asking you to fill in some details. Don't click on the link in the email. Type the proper web address of your bank into your browser and access your internet banking or credit card details through its official channels. Then you can see if anything needs updating or if there are any problems with your banks own security protection.
The Golden Rules of Credit Card Fraud Protection
- NEVER tell your pin to anyone. Your bank will never ask you for the number.
- Never give out ANY personal or financial details to someone who cold-calls, texts or emails you.
- Don’t let your card out of your sight, especially when using it in restaurants and bars.
- Check your credit card statements regularly for unfamiliar transactions and report any to your card provider immediately.
- Shred all credit card statements.
- Many fraudsters prey on people’s greed. But remember – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.