Following the recent Targetgate—our coined word for the Target credit card information hack—it isn’t a surprise that many have become weary of owning and using a credit or debit card. Having a card is essentially like relinquishing your identity to a 2 1/8 x 3 3/8 piece of plastic in hopes that it won’t betray you by giving away all your information to some random stranger. It has your social security number, address, name, phone number, e-mail, possibly the information of other credit cards, and even access to one or more bank accounts. That’s a hefty amount of information to put into the theoretical palms of a card!
Protecting yourself from credit card/identity theft seems like a long, never-ending task, but it doesn’t have to be! By enacting the following tasks periodically, you can keep your identity and financials safe without all the tedious work.
- Never put your full birth date on any social media sites. This small bit of information is sometimes the only thing a thief needs.
- Change your pin number every few months. This makes it harder for thieves to gain complete access of your account.
- Check your account statements for unauthorized purchases such as a shopping spree…1,000 miles away.
- When shopping online, if you are asked to save your credit card information on their site, say no. If at any point the site is hacked, you don’t want your information out there.
- Some websites can look legitimate without being legitimate. Check them out first to be sure they aren’t phishing.
- When you go onto a site which requires you to reveal your information, look for the yellow security padlock at the bottom of your browser or for a green https sometimes with a green lock in the address bar. Any and all secure sites will say ‘https’ rather than the regular ‘http’.
- Shield your information when using an ATM. Ensure no one is peeking over your shoulder at your information. Carefully look at the card slot to see if there is a skimmer attached. If there are multiple cameras, foul play is involved.
- Instruct your card provider to alert you of any purchases above a certain amount before authorizing the payment.
- If you lose your card, cancel it immediately.
At the end of this, you may choose to remain a ‘cash only’ type of person, but if you have a card, you will need to take necessary precaution. As an additional step, you might want to add on Identity Theft to your home insurance policy. Although it does not recompense you for any funds which may have already been squandered, it does pay for some of the costs required to return your identity (to you) and restore your credit.