Credit cards are the convenient solution to cash. After all, why make a trip to the ATM when you can just swipe your card, submit an electronic signature, hit the “OK” button and be done with your purchase? The 40 million Target store patrons whose credit card information was stolen after making in-store purchases in the months of November and December 2013 learned the hard way that with credit cards come an inherent risk.
So what can you do to safeguard your information short of cutting up your credit cards? There are precautions you can take to mitigate the risks of becoming an alarmingly growing statistic of fraud and theft.
- Invest in a paper shredder and shred any printed statements and documents containing your personal information and credit card number.
- Be sure to sign the back of your card. Not doing so may increase your fraud liability.
- If making purchases online, make sure the URL address begins with “https://” instead of “http://”. The extra “s” at the end of the former denotes that the site is secured using an encrypted protocol.
- Avoid making purchases through a public Wi-Fi connection. If you must do so, then consider getting a virtual private network, which provides an extra layer of protection.
- Use credit monitoring services that alert you when a new account is opened in your name. Examples of credit monitoring companies include USAA, LifeLock and Mint.
- Opt for a credit Freeze. This prevents a credit reporting agency from releasing your information without your consent. Keep in mind, though, that while this increases security, it can also create complications, such as approval delays when applying for a loan, mortgage or insurance.
Increased risk of stolen information resulting in unauthorized transactions is the tradeoff that comes with the convenience of credit cards. Safe practicing tips won’t completely eliminate the risks, but it will make you a more difficult target.