Credit Card Safety Tips

credit card safetyWhile credit cards have in many ways made our lives easier, they can also provide a serious headache if you’re not careful with them.

It’s important to keep your personal finances secure; otherwise you could find yourself in a world of hurt if someone malicious gets a hold of your information.

If someone steals your identity they could use thousands of dollars of credit before you even realize what has happened. Once you do figure it out, you’ll need to contact all of your creditors, call your banks, open a case, and you may even be required to go to court to ensure you’re not liable for any possible misuse.

General Security Procedures

Here are some basic tips for staying on top of your credit card security to help you avoid a major hassle in the future.

Sign your card- although many people overlook this as a silly check these days, it’s still important to sign your card (or write ‘see ID’ for added security).

Keep your receipts- do not leave your receipt behind if using it an ATM, or elsewhere. This can leave you vulnerable to fraud. Additionally, after reviewing your statements (if you get hard copies) shred them prior to disposing.

Careful over the phone- don’t give your credit card info over the phone unless you initiated the call. This is a common scam, and even seemingly legit phone numbers can be picked up by nearby scanners. Be particularly cautious if you get a call right ‘back’ after placing an order or talking to your credit card company. If this happens, hang up and recall the original number to check its status and legitimacy.

Ignore any credit-card offer that requires you to spend money up-front- or fail to disclose the identity of the card issuer.

Remember to get your card back- it is easy to forget to recollect your card after using it at stores. As simple as it sounds, make a habit (such as leaving your wallet up) until you retrieve your card.

Keep a list- of your current credit cards and their toll-free numbers in case of emergency, theft, or loss.

Keep up with statements- check for any suspicious charges or errors.

Shopping Safely Online

Internet shopping is made possible through the use credit cards. The explosion of money changing hands virtually has attracted many hackers to prey on this market. However, there are steps you can take preemptively to protect yourself against issues shopping online:

Zero Liability- some credit card issuers offer zero liability clauses for online purchases. If the card or its number is stolen, typically the cardholder is responsible for up to the first $50, but none after that.

One Time Use/Temporary Numbers- some companies issue temporary numbers that you can use for just 1 web purchase. So even if the number is captured, it can’t be used for anything else.

Extra Passwords- some cards require an additional password to be entered online if attempting to use the card, hopefully known just by the company and you. Not all online merchants have this capability, so it will only provide protection on the sites which do.

Be Careful- sometimes credit card companies will attempt to sell customers on protection in case the card is stolen and they are left with a huge bill. It’s important to know that consumers are already covered by a federal law (outlined below). Personal liability is capped at $50, and the issuer will rarely even ask for it if it’s reported stolen in a timely fashion.

Disputing Charges

When reviewing your monthly statement, if you do come across a suspicious charge, it is important to take action quickly. However, you can also rest assured that there is protection provided by the government for this exact reason:

The Fair Credit Billing Act- passed in 1975 is an amendment to the Truth in Lending Act. Like the name states, the main goal of the act is to outline consumer’s rights when it comes to errors that arise on credit card bills.

Key points of the Act:

  • Allows consumers, when dissatisfied, to sue or assert other defenses against their credit card companies.
  • Requires consumers to make a “good faith attempt to obtain satisfactory resolution of a disagreement or problem relative to the transaction” from merchants.
  • Restricts these rights to transactions exceeding $50.
  • Protects you without requiring you to buy additional credit protection.

If you do spot a billing error on your statement the first move is to return to or call the merchant and attempt to resolve it. This is often the most effective action to take. If it doesn’t work, call your card issuer to see what they suggest. They’ll likely request that you put the complaint in writing and send a copy to them via certified mail.

During this time of dispute, make sure to continue to pay on the card for least pay the minimum payment due. While many companies will likely give you the benefit of the doubt, and credit your account for the amount disputed, they can also deny your claim and may possibly even charge you additional fees if you haven’t been paying the amount due on your statements.

Posted on February 15, 2012 by in Credit Cards

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