5 tips to prevent credit card fraud
Credit cards are convenient and have great rewards, but there’s always the nagging issue of security. Credit card fraud is at its highest level this decade, as hackers and thieves find new methods. The good news, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself.
Singapore has the sixth highest credit card fraud rate in the world
Last year, almost a third of all Singaporeans with credit cards fell prey to fraud. Contrary to what you see in movies, this didn’t come about from high-tech hackers. In fact, almost all of them were caused by accidental slip-ups, such as leaving smartphones unlocked, or revealing numbers over the phone.
Here are some methods you can use to shield yourself:
1. Don’t lose sight of your credit card
Never leave your credit card unmonitored, in the hands of another person. All it takes is a split second for thieves to swipe your card on a scanner (a device that copies the digital details of your card, allowing them to use it). Or if you leave it with them for a few minutes, they can use the old-fashioned method of just recording down the card number, expiry date, and three-digit security - these are enough for thieves to make transactions on your card.
When in restaurants or shops, always make sure you’re present when your card is swiped. Don’t let a waiter or retail assistant take your card where you can’t see it, and then return with it later.
If you ever misplace, immediately call your bank and have them suspend it. The bank can reactivate it later, if you manage to find it. But don’t wait hours to do this - by then the thieves may have gone on a shopping spree with your card.
2. Never disclose your credit card information to anyone
A common way to steal credit cards is through phone scams. For example, you may get a phone call claiming you’ve won a new tablet (even if you don’t remember entering any contest). All they need is your credit card number, to pay for the small shipment fee of a few dollars. If you read it to them, there will never be any prize; just a lot of sudden expenses on your credit card.
Be suspicious of any company that calls you asking for your credit card numbers. It’s unusual for businesses to handle transactions this way – the normal method is to direct you to a website, where you type in the card numbers yourself. When in doubt, hang up.
3. Shop responsibly when online
Be careful which website you shop on! Some websites exist solely to steal credit card numbers, when you key them into the “payment portal”. Some signs to watch for are:
- Strange or convoluted URLs. Most professionally run websites have a straightforward URL, such as GoBear.com, Amazon.com and Lazada.sg. But if you see a URL like http://www.omgbuy-cosmetics-4-cheap-cn-1345t5/cnx/, then run far, far away.
- The produce list looks like a nonsensical jumble of words. For example, you might find a “product” list like “Adidas, Aeropostale, Angry Birds, Ariana Grade”.
- The site is laden with typos and grammatical errors. This is usually the result of using direct translation tools. If you’re supposed to be on the official brand website of, say, Michael Kors and you see this, it’s almost certainly a fake (the real companies would never tolerate that kind of low quality site).
Prices are wildly unrealistic, such as $100 for a new model iPhone.
Use trusted shopping sites like Lazada.sg, who works with reliable and legit merchants to ensure a safe shopping experience.
Even when shopping on reputable sites, avoid saving your credit card details. We know this makes it less convenient to buy again later – but in the event a hacker breaks into your accounts, the saved data means they’ll also be able to spend on your credit card.
4. Set credit card payment alerts
Always ensure the alert function is turned on for your credit card. This ensures you’ll get an SMS, whenever a transaction is made on the card. If you get such an alert when you haven’t used the card, immediately call the bank and have them suspend it.
As an aside, parents should always do this, if they let the children play games on their smartphone / tablet. Some of those games have in-app purchases, and the last thing you want is for your six-year old to spend $2,000 on virtual farm animals.
5. Dispose of your credit cards responsibly
When it comes time to renew your credit cards, dispose of the old ones in a proper manner. Never throw all the bits of the same credit card into the same bin (a persistent thief will just join up the parts, and get the numbers).
A quicker alternative is to burn the credit card, but be careful not to set anything else alight (also, the plastic fumes can stink up the room).