Are you familiar with the latest phishing scam targeting Netflix and AMEX customers?
If not, here’s the skinny. The campaign aims to steal payment card information by sending an email that looks like it came from Netflix.
Those who open the email will read that their account is on hold. They’re then instructed to download a form, which they have to fill out and return.
As you could guess, the form has fields for credit card and SSN info. The scam is still ongoing, which is why now’s a good time as any to review credit card safety tips. Here, we’ll talk about how to protect your credit card and prevent hackers from stealing your financial data.
But First, Why Do Cybercriminals Want Your Data
You may think that hackers only want your credit card info so they can use it to buy stuff without paying for them. Some of them do, but others use the personal data they’ve stolen for something else.
For one thing, email addresses are valuable currency. Hackers can sell them to identity thieves, spammers, botnet operators, and so on.
It also doesn’t stop there. Let’s say a cybercriminal gets ahold of your email address. He or she can then send you phishing emails that when clicked on installs malware that can record your usernames and passwords.
They can then log into your accounts. The bad news is if one of those is your bank account, they can empty that in an instant with you none the wiser.
Sounds scary, right? Though it’s hard, try not to dwell on it too much. Focus on not letting the hackers get the better of you.
That said, here are 7 ways you can protect your credit card and your personal information.
1. Practice the Easiest Method to Protect Your Card
Some people take the easiest precautions for granted, thinking they’re smart enough not to forget them. The problem is, it’s not about being smart. It’s about not procrastinating.
For example, not signing the back of a credit card. It’s something that should be automatic once you get a new card in the mail. But some people don’t do it right away.
This is important because if you lose your new card and it falls into the wrong hands, he or she can easily add his or her own signature to your card. Of course, it doesn’t protect you from online purchases. But at least you know that for in-store purchases, you’re making it a bit harder for the thief to use your card.
2. Remember: Sharing Isn’t Caring
You want to lend your credit card to your spouse or your best friend or a trusted employee. Don’t.
It’s your credit card. It’s only for your personal use. If you need another person to use your credit card on your behalf, make him or her an authorized user instead.
Another thing you shouldn’t share is your credit card statements. Keep them in a safe place and if you want to get rid of them, use a shredder.
Now, if you don’t have enough space in your home to keep your credit card statements, sign up for digital statements. But make sure you practice online security measures (we’ll also cover that here).
3. Be on Your Guard
Protecting credit cards means constant vigilance. You have to keep yourself updated on the latest scams and it doesn’t hurt to suspect everything.
If you get calls from merchants you don’t know, don’t entertain them. If you buy something from them and you don’t get any product or service in return, it would be too late for you to do something about it. The criminals have already gotten your credit card information.
Also, make sure to be thorough when checking your credit card statements. There may be purchases there you don’t recognize. And even if they’re small amounts, it means they’re getting money from you month after month.
Tip: Notify your credit card provider right away if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
4. Always Update Your Credit Card Information
Do you plan on moving? Don’t forget to notify your bank.
You want to be sure your bank always has your correct address, phone number, and email. This way, they can contact you right away if they notice any suspicious activity happening on your card.
It’s also a good idea to call your bank from time to time to check if they have your details right.
5. Keep Your Credit Card Secure Online – Part 1
This is an extensive topic, so to make sure we cover everything, we’ll do this in 3 parts.
First, be cautious when using free Wi-Fi. Online thieves love free Wi-Fi and they would be more than happy to hack a network to get through your credit card information.
If you must use free Wi-Fi, don’t make mobile purchases or access your bank accounts. Always wait for a secure connection before doing such high-risk activities.
Another thing to note is your password. Don’t use the same one for every site you use, and change your passwords every now and then. Data breaches are always happening so it’s best to update your passwords every 30 days.
6. Keep Your Credit Card Secure Online – Part 2
Don’t overshare on your social media accounts. Keep certain details such as your birthday, hometown, etc., private.
The more you share, the more you give cybercriminals clues that will help them crack your password. You should also never accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
Aside from being careful on social networks, you should also enable 2FA or two-factor authentication. This is an extra measure to prevent other people from resetting your password. It can be a code sent to you via SMS or a code that you have to generate using an app like Google Authenticator.
7. Keep Your Credit Card Secure Online – Part 3
With all your devices, don’t forget to keep them updated and make sure each one has the latest OS. You also want a good firewall and antivirus software to ensure all your online activities are secure.
Other than beefing up the security of your devices and gadgets, don’t forget about your home Wi-Fi.
Make sure you’re using a strong password for your router and if you have to replace it, understand what features to look for. These include built-in VPNs, firewalls, and remote monitoring of your smartphone or tablet.
Bonus: Extra Tips for Credit Card Safety
The bad news is cybercriminals don’t take a break. They don’t stop even if people are on to their schemes. They will either look for other victims or ways to carry out their nefarious plans.
This is why you have to stay alert and do everything you can to make it harder for the bad guys (or gals) to access your credit card information. Aside from the 7 tips listed above, you should also:
Leave Your Credit Card at Home…
…when you don’t plan to use it. This is also sound advice if you plan to travel somewhere.
For emergency purchases, you can use a digital wallet service. This way you don’t have to expose your credit card where thieves can see them.
Sign Up for Security Alerts
If you can enroll your card so that you receive an alert every time you buy something, do it. This way, you can call your bank right away if there’s a purchase you don’t recognize.
Be Suspicious of Any Email That Asks for Your Account Info
Even if those emails look legit, don’t forget to check the sender and the URL. You know to steer clear of obvious phishing emails with bad grammar and misspellings. But there are others that are good enough to fool even internet-savvy folks.
Also, don’t click links or download something without verifying it with your credit card issuer first.
There are so many online stores nowadays. If you’re making a purchase on a new ecommerce site, investigate it first. Browse around and see if it passes the secure site check.
Disable the Autosave/Autofill Function in Your Phone or Laptop
Yes, they’re super convenient. But think about what would happen if someone hacks into your smartphone or laptop. It would be like handing them your passwords and credit card details.
Never Email Your Card Number
Some businesses will ask to hold your credit card number. They do this because they see it as some sort of guarantee or deposit. You should know it’s not safe and you’re better off looking for other options.
Want to Know More About Protecting Your Credit Card?
Now that you know the basics of credit card safety, it helps to build on that knowledge. For more information on credit cards, don’t forget to check out our blog. We’ve written a lot about credit cards including reviews, tips, and advice.
If you don’t know where to start, we recommend 9 Ways to Protect Your Credit Card Information at Gas Station Pumps. 7 Tips to Protect Your Personal Information When Using a Credit Card Machine is also a good read.
We also have articles on loans, insurance, lender reviews, and more. Feel free to browse our blog for more posts on managing your personal finances.