Credit cards are one of the great
conveniences of modern life. They
eliminate the need to carry around large amounts of cash for large purchases or
emergencies. They make it possible to
make online and mail order purchases without having to wait for the post office
to send your check to the merchant. All
of this power creates new risks to your finances. Fortunately, itâ€™s easy to protect yourself with
just a few simple steps.
a copy of your credit card number and the issuerâ€™s phone number somewhere safe
â€“ i.e. not in your wallet. This is in
case your credit card is lost or stolen you can report it quickly. This is especially important when you go on
vacation as you wonâ€™t have easy access to a copy of your billing
statement. Also, make sure that
strangers will not have access to this information â€“ i.e. keep it locked up.
Second: If your credit card is lost or stolen, report
it to the issuer immediately. Yes, your
credit card agreement probably says you are only liable for $50 of any charges
the thief makes, but this is usually contingent upon you reporting the loss in
a timely manner. Besides, you cannot use
your credit card in physical stores unless you have the actual card and your
card issuer will not send you a new one unless you report the loss.
Third: Do not give out your credit card number to
any company that calls you out of the blue.
Sure, they could be a legitimate company offering legitimate services,
but you have no way of knowing that.
They very well could be a scammer that just wants your credit card
number so they can either use it or resell it.
If the company has a product that you want to purchase, look them up in
the phone book and check with the Better Business Bureau. If it is a charity, have them send you a
donation card in the mail. Any reputable
charity will do so. While you are
waiting for the card, do a little research on the charity. Check them out with the Better Business
Bureauâ€™s charity division. If they check
out with the BBB, then you can contact them and make your purchase or donation.
Fourth: Monitor your statement closely. Look for any charges that you did not
make. If you are sure you did not make
them, report them to your credit card issuer.
This is similar to the recommendation to monitor your credit report once
or twice per year, but you can and should check your credit card statement
Fifth: When you use your card in public try to keep
the number hidden. Thieves will try to
get your credit card number any way they can.
That includes looking over your shoulder and memorizing it while you are
in line at the store. An easy way to
keep the number hidden is to keep your finger over the numbers on one side and
keep the other side close to your body.
A better way is to keep the card in your wallet as long as possible and
put it right back in your wallet as soon as you can.
Sixth: Shred your statements and receipts when you
dispose of them. Dumpster diving is a
great source of personal info and your credit card statements have your credit
card number of them. Before you put your
statements in the trash, shred them. A
shredder that cuts paper into little bits of confetti is preferable to one that
just cuts strips. Strips are relatively
easy to reassemble into a readable piece of paper. With bits of confetti, it is much more
difficult. If you want to be really
safe, you should probably burn the bits of confetti, but most thieves will move
on to an easier target rather than trying to collect and reassemble the bits of
It may sound like a lot of work, but
it boils down to keeping your credit card number out of the hands of people who
have no legitimate need to have it.
Would you hand out your Social Security Number to just anyone? Of course not. Treat your credit card number the same sort
of protection. With these few simple
steps, you can protect yourself and your credit from thieves.