How to protect your credit card from fraud

If anything seems out of the ordinary, contact your financial institution immediately. (Photo: 123RF)

Cases of credit card fraud are on the rise. According to a recent study by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center (CAFC), 2021 and 2022 were “historic” years for the number of reported fraud losses, with Canadians losing $380 million and $531 million to fraud, respectively. safety. More recently, a 2023 study by TransUnion found that 49% of Canadians had recently been the target of a fraud scheme, with stolen credit cards and fraudulent charges accounting for the largest portion.

When it comes to protecting your credit card and your credit, prevention is better than cure.

Here are some safety precautions that can prevent cardholders from falling victim to fraudulent activity that robs them of money and peace of mind and can leave them with questionable credit scores.

Protect your personal data

Obviously, your private data needs to be carefully monitored. Criminals are constantly looking for credit card receipts, paper statements and other carelessly discarded confidential messages to gain access to your financial information. These documents are a treasure trove of personal information that fraudsters can use to commit fraud. Keep all your documents in a safe place and shred them before disposal.

First, never leave personal information lying around at work, in a vehicle, or even at home.

When choosing a personal identification number (PIN), choose a combination that is difficult to guess. Never store it on devices connected to the Internet that can be hacked, and never share it with anyone.

Other security measures include protecting the keypad when entering your PIN in a store or at an ATM, and always making sure to collect slips and receipts.

Sign the back of your new credit card immediately after activation and destroy the old card when you receive the replacement card. As a general rule, avoid giving out your credit card information over the phone unless you initiated the call and you’re not sure the person you’re talking to is trustworthy.

Ignore emails that ask for your personal or credit card information, especially those that claim to offer you a large financial gain in exchange for a small upfront payment. Lock your mailbox and notify your credit card company when you’re traveling so they can detect and report any suspicious activity while you’re away.

Make online transactions securely

Only conduct online transactions with your credit card on trusted websites and make sure the transactions are encrypted. Look for sites with URLs that begin with “https” or that display a padlock symbol on the page. This means that the data entered and transmitted on this site is safe. Do not create an online profile containing your credit card or bank details.

Beware of free Wi-Fi networks in shopping centers and cafes. Although these unsecured networks are convenient, they have the potential to expose your private data to cybercriminals. Avoid entering bank or credit card information, sending confidential emails, or sharing sensitive data when connected to public Wi-Fi, especially on unsecured sites.

Don’t be fooled by phishing

Phishing is a form of cybercrime in which fraudsters use email as bait to trick people into divulging sensitive information such as passwords and financial details. These emails often impersonate legitimate websites and businesses and ask for sensitive information such as credit card numbers, bank details and passwords, which are then used for fraudulent activities.

In today’s digital environment, phishing scams have evolved to include tactics such as social media and messaging phishing. Thanks to generative AI like ChatGPT and Bard, cybercriminals have acquired the skill to make their phishing emails look like real emails, making it easier for individuals to be tricked into opening, clicking or sharing dubious links.

Here are some tips to protect yourself from these advanced phishing attacks:

Recognize the signs: Watch for unusual greetings or tones, spam, grammatical and spelling errors, a sense of urgency, implausible offers, suspicious links or attachments, requests for personal information, discrepancies in email addresses, links, etc.

Never react: When in doubt, don’t react. By replying to a suspicious message in your inbox, you are letting the scammer know that they are dealing with an active email address.

Reporting suspicious messages: If you notice a suspicious message in your inbox, be sure to report it to your email service provider or workplace tech support.

Secure your computer with antivirus software: This software can help you proactively identify phishing attacks and provide you with mitigation techniques in the event of successful attacks.

If anything seems out of the ordinary, contact your financial institution immediately. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the national anti-fraud call center and central fraud data repository, strongly recommends reporting any suspicious emails to both the Anti-Fraud Center and the financial institution from which the email purports to originate.

The best protection is quick action

Despite the best efforts of cardholders, credit cards can sometimes be lost or stolen. In such a case, it is necessary to immediately report the incident to the card issuer.

Banks are committed to ensuring the financial security of their clients. They have implemented comprehensive security measures and fraud prevention systems so that cardholders do not become victims of fraud and have to deal with unauthorized transactions.

In the event of an incident related to your safety, it is advisable to keep a written record. Record when you noticed the fraudulent activity and the steps you took to respond, including the names of the people you spoke with and the dates of those interactions. Reporting to local law enforcement is also recommended.

While you’re at it, notify the two Canadian credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax. Ask them to put a fraud alert in your file. Alternatively, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center by email or phone.

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