How Can You Guard Yourself Against Identity Theft?

id-theft-cards

If you shop online or pay for things online, you may be wondering how to protect yourself from credit card theft. This article covers ways on how to protect yourself from fraud when using credit cards on websites.

Personal Identity Theft is Serious

Identity theft rates in the last few years has gone up steadily. Victims include people of any age but many are elderly.

Victims of Identity Theft, 2014 (bjs.gov)

  • About 7% of persons age 16 or older were victims of identity theft in 2014, similar to findings in 2012.
  • The majority of identity theft victims (86%) experienced the fraudulent use of existing account information, such as credit card or bank account information.
  • The number of elderly victims of identity theft increased from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014.
  • About 14% of identity theft victims experienced out-of-pocket losses of $1 or more. Of these victims, about half suffered losses of less than $100.
  • Half of identity theft victims who were able to resolve any associated problems did so in a day or less.

It’s good that some victims were able to solve problems quickly but for others, it took more time. It’s a hassle to go through and you very well might have money tied up while things get resolved. It is, of course, better to not even go through identity theft.

The Many Types of Identity Theft

Most people think of ID theft as credit card fraud. That might be the most prevalent one but there are other types – they include:

  • Financial Identity Theft – Bank accounts are used illegally
  • Insurance Identity Theft – Claims are made in the victim’s name
  • Medical Identity Theft – False claims are made on medical insurance
  • Driver’s License Identity Theft – Criminals find ways to use this ID
  • Criminal Identity Theft – Criminal records are created in other people’s names
  • Social Security Identity Theft – Benefits are stolen from the government
  • Synthetic Identity Theft – Information from different people is used to create a new identity
  • Child Identity Theft – When a child’s social security number is used

There are even ones like getting subscriptions to magazines or renting an apartment. The bottom line here is that you need to protect your identity, have it monitored and be careful how you give out information – especially when you are online since that’s one of the easiest ways for someone to get your information.

Theft of credit card information is something any with a card needs to be aware of. It’s a part of having an account. If you don’t keep an eye on things and think about your privacy and security, you’re more likely to encounter problems.

Your Mailbox Can be a Honey Hole

You will also want to keep an eye on your mailbox since things like bills contain information that can be used to steal an identity. Getting a locking mailbox is a good idea. There are guidelines for mailboxes from the USPS but you are allowed to have a mailbox that locks. They are also sometimes called security mailboxes.

Get one with a door large enough to accept small packages but not one that would allow someone to reach their hand or a device into to retrieve what is in your mailbox. Make sure the one you buy is USPS approved so that you don’t waste your money on one that the postal service does not allow. It should also be strong enough where a hit by a bat or something won’t break it open.

Going paperless on bills can also help with sensitive information being delivered in your mail.

Tips on Protection When Paying by Credit Card

Since paying online is common now and very convenient, you should follow these credit card security tips if you pay for online purchases with a credit card:

Use PayPal

First, consider using PayPal to pay for purchases. When you use PayPal, the merchant never receives your credit card information. The transaction just happens at one place – PayPal. Thus, PayPal is the only company responsible for keeping your credit card information secure instead of many places.

Check Your Statements

Second, actually read over your credit card statements when you receive them. Don’t just pay them but go over each charge and make sure the charge is one that you recognize.

If you don’t recognize some, they might not be real fraudulent credit card charges. Make sure you’ve talked with your husband, spouse or anyone else using your account to see if the charge looks familiar to them. Note the date and try to recall what each of you was doing on that date.

Check URLs (Web Site Addresses)

laptop-secureThird, when using websites, make sure that the website is using secure pages when you are entering your card information.

Technically, the page you are on does not need to be secure but the next page does but the standard practice is to make sure the page you’re entering information into is secure. You should see the URL as being “https” instead of “http” and there should be a symbol or mention of an SSL certificate in the URL bar.

If you don’t see that lock symbol there, then stop and maybe try your purchase another time. You can also call the company you’re trying to buy from and let them know that you think a page is not secure. Sometimes, the security certificates they’re using expire and they don’t know about it.

Do Not Use Public WiFi

wi-fiOnly make purchases when you are on a trusted network. Places like hotels, coffee shops and restaurants are not good places to make purchases online. Routers and IP addresses can be spoofed pretty easily and all your information can be going right into someone’s laptop to use later.

Instead, just remember to make your purchase later when you get home or you’re on a network that you trust.

Using your phone’s data network is safer than using a public wi-fi hotspot, so you can also make purchases just using that network by turning off wi-fi on your mobile device.

Should You Use Mobile Wallets?

A mobile wallet is something like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Android Pay. It’s when you use your mobile phone to pay for something. These systems have been used in Europe and Asia for a long time and have just come to the United States in the last few years.

Basically, how they work is you’re giving out a one-time use credit card number for every transaction. The number can only used once and it’s assigned to your account, so it’s very trackable. Using this kind of system is good and much better than the card in your physical wallet since that card’s number always stays the same.

Is There Credit Card Theft Insurance?

There’s insurance for about anything it seems. Basically all credit cards come with some insurance that protects you against purchases you did not make.

Beyond just protecting you against purchases, credit card insurance also helps protect what you buy with the card against theft, damage or vandalism. Plans vary but if you buy something with a credit card and it’s stolen within 90 days of purchase, you might be able to get that item replaced for free. This is a perk not everyone remembers exists. Using credit card insurance on purchases is a smart way to buy things and protect against theft.

If you’re looking for Identity Theft Insurance, that exists, too. You can get it through your homeowner’s insurance company or through a company like LifeLock. Insurance will cover costs like running your credit report, court filing fees, phone calls, lost wages and other legal fees.

Can You Use a Prepaid Credit Card Online?

credit-cardYes! This is one of the best tips out there and it’s a bit like using a mobile phone wallet but a little more “old school.” People that are older and not up on mobile phone technology will gravitate toward this solution. You can purchase a pre-paid credit card if you know you need to make a purchase online.

You’ll load that card up with enough funds to cover that purchase so that once the purchase goes through, the card is down to a zero balance and would not be a good card for credit card thieves to use.

How to Pay With a Prepaid Credit Card Online

Prepaid credit cards work just like normal credit cards. They’re accepted at the same places and, to the retailer, it’s just another card. Because you’re putting money on them, they’re actually more like debit cards than credit cards. The difference is that you don’t need an account with a bank to use a prepaid credit card. There’s also no credit check required.

When checking out using a prepaid card, just use it like any other credit or debit card. If you see an option about a “prepaid card” on a website, that’s most likely referring to their own prepaid card, which is something like a coupon code or promo code – so don’t choose that option. Again, just use it like you would any other credit card.

You can kind of think of them as “disposable debit cards” if you just use them for purchases you know you’ll be making. You can use the card, deplete it and then get a new card for another purchase another time.

Conclusion – Credit Card Fraud Prevention Tips

To protect yourself from fraud, you’ll simply need to be careful. This article has gone over ways to guard yourself against identity theft when making purchases online. Follow the tips listed here to be more secure when using your card online. Not all identity theft can be prevented but if you’re smart and careful, you can lessen your chances.

When paying in person for purchases, consider using cash when you can to help protect yourself.


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