The first 6 months of 2016 saw UK fraud losses soar by 25%, rising to a stark figure of £400m. Within this figure, £321.5 million was attributed to remote purchase fraud – covering lost and stolen cards, cards not received, counterfeit cards and ID theft.
It is clear that there has never been a more important time to take steps to protect yourself from credit card fraud. In this guide, we will help you do just that, with a step-by-step walkthrough for limiting the potential for falling victim to credit card fraud.
Step one: Keep your credit card secure
The first and simplest step to reducing the chance of credit card fraud is to ensure that your card is always in a safe place. When out and about, this means keeping your wallet or purse on your person, rather than in a bag that can be snatched. Ideally, this should be in an inside pocket, however, if this has to be an outside pocket, ensure that it is zipped away and not in view. You should also shield your PIN from others when paying for goods or services, or withdrawing cash.
Step two: Never keep your card on display for longer than necessary
Some forms of credit card fraud only require the criminal to know your account number and card expiry date. For this reason, you should never keep your card out for longer than is absolutely necessary – fraudsters can take your details down in the snap of a smartphone photo. You should also double check that you have all of your cards before leaving a restaurant or shop. Finally, you should never allow a merchant to remove your card from your sight, as it takes only seconds for your card to be scanned and its details copied.
Step three: Always shred paperwork that features your credit card details
Never discard your credit card statement, PIN letter or any other correspondence from your credit card company without first shredding it. For the ultimate level of protection, you could also split the shredded paperwork into separate bags. Finally, you must always destroy your expired credit card by cutting it into at least six pieces, cutting directly through the magnetic strip. Your bank branch will also accept your destroyed credit card if you want to be extra diligent.
Step four: Never (ever) sign blank credit card receipts
Always check the amount on the credit card receipt, or PIN machine screen, prior to signing it. Should you inadvertently sign a blank receipt there is a possibility that the merchant could enter in an amount and send it away for authorisation.
Step five: Never give your credit card information to unauthorised people
You should only ever provide your credit card details on calls that you have initiated – such as over the phone to your credit card company when you know the phone number to be correct, or to a business, you wish to purchase from. Never provide details to those who have called you, or return calls via a number left on voicemail by someone claiming to be from your credit card company. If you are left a message, check the number against official correspondence and online via a website you know to be genuine.
A growing form of fraud involves criminals calling victims masquerading as their bank or credit card company. Known as vishing, this involves the criminal convincing the victim that their account has been defrauded and that they must provide their details over the phone in order to secure their account. In more brazen examples, some are even convincing the victim that their bank branch has a criminal within it and that they must withdraw their cash, to be picked up by a courier that will arrive at their home. This latter example tends to target vulnerable or elderly victims.
Step six: Stay safe online
Be aware of how phishing works
Never click email links, even where the email seems to be from your credit card company or bank. This link may lead to a website that looks exactly like the genuine destination, however, the login or credit card detail form could instead be sending your details to a criminal.
When shopping online, always check that the website you are using is secure
One of the main advantages of credit or debit cards is being able to purchase online. You needn’t avoid this activity, but you must take precautions as to where you are shopping. You can check that a website is secure by looking to your browser bar, where the website address is displayed. You should see that it is secured by SSL, as depicted in the image below.
Step seven: Double check your statements every month
Unauthorised charges can often go unnoticed if you make many monthly purchases, or do not check your statements on a regular basis. Ideally, you should check daily or weekly, using your online banking. The second-best alternative is to check your monthly paper statements.
Step eight: Create strong passwords and memorise them
Your passwords should ideally be a mix of random letters – both upper case and lower case, and include at least one character that is not a letter or number – such as ? or !.
Always avoid using names or dates.
Suspect that you may have fallen to credit card fraud?
If you have reason to suspect that your credit card has been defrauded, contact your card company immediately.
For further advice, read our guide: Credit card fraud: what to do if you are a victim.