No-one wants to fall victim to credit card fraud. The good news is, there are plenty of things we can do to help protect our plastic.
Millions of us rely on credit cards, perhaps for major purchases we can’t afford to pay for outright, or just to manage our money and make ends meet each month. In the vast majority of cases, things run smoothly and we don’t run into any problems.
However, fraudsters are always trying to find ways to con us out of our cash, so it’s a good idea to swot up on the different scams they use so you can avoid being caught out.
Falling victim to credit card fraud can be immensely stressful and take a long time to sort out. But remember that, unless you’ve been negligent (for example, by leaving your details around for someone to steal easily), you are usually not liable for any money spent fraudulently. That said, you’ll probably have to jump through a number of hoops just to prove your innocence to your card provider.
There are two main techniques criminals use. The first is ‘phishing’. This is where they contact you by e-mail, phone or post, pretending to be your bank or building society. They then ask you for your credit card PIN number, so they can spend using your card details.
So the message is stark and simple: never give your PIN to anyone. If someone calls and asks for personal information, simply refuse to give it to them, and ring your card provider straight away to find out what’s going on.
If you’re given a number to call, double check it against your card bill or the provider’s website. Some scammers set up bogus phone lines with office sounds played in the background so they sound genuine when you ring in.
If you receive an email asking you to verify your personal or card details, play it safe and simply delete it. Never click on a link within an email and doing so might give the fraudsters access to information stored on your computer.
Also be very wary of carrying out financial transactions on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone using a public wi-fi network as criminals might try to intercept your communications.
Identity theft is the second way criminals can commit credit card fraud. They use your personal details, such as your name, address and PIN number, so that they can pose as you and set up new credit card accounts, leaving you to pick up the bill.
It might sound obvious, but never keep your PIN anywhere near your card. You should also make sure it isn’t a number that can be easily guessed. For example, if you’ve set it as 1234, then your card provider might not be very sympathetic if fraudsters managed to guess it.
Try to avoid using family birthdays as your PIN, as it can again be pretty easy for fraudsters to track down these dates and work out what your PIN is.
Another thing that could make you vulnerable is not shredding documents which contain information that could be useful to fraudsters. We all usually get a certain amount of junk mail through the post, but chucking out anything with your full name and address on it could make life a lot easier for criminals to steal your identity, so make sure you keep personal details secure.
Always destroy any documents from financial companies which have personal information on them, or if you need them, keep them under lock and key in a filing cabinet or box.
Try to avoid using family birthdays as your PIN, as it can be pretty easy for fraudsters to track down these dates and work out what your PIN is.
Check your credit file
As well as making sure you always check your card statements carefully to see if your details have been used without your knowledge, it’s a good idea to regularly check your credit file.
You can get hold of this from one of the credit reference agencies (Experian, CallCredit or Equifax), and it will show if anyone has opened any credit card accounts in your name, or has made other credit applications, for example, for a personal loan.
You don’t have to look at your credit file every month, but it’s a good idea to do an annual check.
Any form of financial fraud can be very frightening for victims, but it’s important to remember that credit cards are still one of the best and most secure ways to pay. They provide valuable consumer protection too: if you use your card to buy something that costs between £100 and £60,260 and it turns out to be faulty or the company goes bust, you can get your money back from the card provider.
If you are unlucky enough to fall victim to credit card fraud, or you are suspicious of an email or phone call, contact your card provider immediately. You should also report it to ActionFraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk (tel 0300 123 2040).