We live in a world that is more connected than ever before. Just as you take safety precautions when handling cash, you should be vigilant when using credit or debit cards to make purchases, either in person or online. Protect your account information and avoid payment card scams:
Prevent Online Intrusions
Use updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software, only download information from trusted sites and do not click pop-up windows or suspicious link in emails. These can all be tricks to install spyware, which can record your keystrokes to obtain account or other confidential information.
Use Secure Websites
When purchasing items online, look for safety symbols such as the padlock icon in the browser’s status bar, an “s” after “http” in the URL, or the words “Secure Sockets Layer” (SSL). These are signs that the merchant is using a secure page for transmitting personal information.
Protect Personal Information
Never provide sensitive information, such as credit card or bank account numbers, passwords, Social Security number, driver’s license, or address/phone by mail, phone or email unless you initiated the communication. Report requests for personal information to your card issuer by calling the number on the back of your card.
Be Wary of “Free Trial” Offers
Take time to read and understand all terms and conditions. Pay particular attention to any pre-checked boxes in online offers before submitting an order. Failing to un-check the boxes may bind you to terms and conditions you don’t want.
Track Account Activity
Regularly review credit card and bank statements and report any suspicious or unauthorized charges to the financial institution or card issuer. Ask whether your credit or debit card offers “zero liability,” which means you won’t be responsible for unauthorized or fraudulent purchases.
Sign up for email or text message transaction alerts from your bank to keep track of purchases. These alerts are triggered when the transaction meets certain criteria you select; for example, purchases over a certain dollar amount. In addition, banks generally will contact you if they spot unusual activity, such as multiple large purchases made within a short time frame or from different geographic areas.
A Few Other Quick Cyber Safety Tips:
- Create strong, random passwords and change them regularly on both computers and mobile devices. Use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Use different passwords for secure sites and try to avoid commonly used phrases and general information about yourself like names of children or pets and birthdays.
- Shield keypads from the eyes of “shoulder surfers” at stores and ATMs.
- Review receipts for accuracy before signing and retain them for your records.
- Avoid security threats by regularly updating software and apps to keep your devices free from malware and bugs. Updated systems work more efficiently and make your platforms more stable and secure.
- Understand what data mobile apps can access on your device before downloading. Most people have the tendency to just agree with terms and services without actually reading them. Take the time to look over what personal information the app will have access to and set preferences if given the option.
The National Cyber Security Alliance’s website StaySafeOnline.org is filled with tips for safe Internet use.