It’s important to make sure that you’re keeping your information secure and paying attention to potential risks. Are you guilty of making your credit card an easy target for any of these four common ways of stealing your credit card and personal information?
Credit card security gotchas
- Would you recognize a skimmer?ATMs and gas pumps are prime locations for thieves to surreptitiously install credit card skimmers. These little devices, which look like a slightly bulkier-than-usual slot for swiping your card, skim the data from your credit card even as you use it to make a legitimate payment. Skimmers capture the personal information from your card’s magnetic strip. Hackers often slap skimmers on remote payment terminals such as gas pumps. ATMs are another prime target.
A slot where you insert or swipe your card that looks different than it has in the past should raise your eyebrows. Also question sales clerks who swipe your card in a reader other than the one used for sales or who swipe your card before beginning the transaction. If you feel suspicious, simply cancel the transaction and go elsewhere.
One way to decrease your vulnerability to skimmers is to use a credit card rather than a debit card for most purchases. If unauthorized charges appear on your credit card statement, you can alert the company, decline the charges, and not pay the bill. But if you’ve used a debit card, the money has already left your account. When you use a credit card, the credit card issuer has to fight to get its money back, but when you use a debit card, the battle to get your money back is all on you!
- Do you protect your PIN?Here’s another reason to use a credit card instead of your debit card: when you use a credit card, you won’t have to enter your PIN. A PIN is just one more piece of the puzzle that hackers can steal and abuse in the process of trying to steal your money. And it’s fairly easy to steal someone’s PIN even without high-tech tactics like hidden cameras or skimmers.
When you pay with a card that’s both a debit and credit card, the terminal will often ask you for a PIN number automatically, even if you’ve chosen the credit option. Hit Enter instead, and the terminal should default to a credit payment — no PIN required.
- Do you log in every time online retailers ask you to?Too many online retailers insist that you create a user account in order to complete your transaction. If you can check out as a guest instead of logging in, take that option to avoid saving your personal data on the company’s servers. The fewer people who have access to your personal information, the better.
If you do have to log in, use a strong password. Don’t reuse passwords for multiple accounts; if one service gets compromised, thieves can rampage through all the rest of your accounts that use the same password.
Protect your credit card information by never saving your card number and details for next time. We agree that keying in your credit card number every time you make a purchase is a pain, but it’s not as much of a pain as having your information stolen if the merchant’s security gets compromised.
- Do you use public Wi-Fi or computers to shop online?Don’t shop or enter personal information on a shared public computer. Don’t even enter sensitive personal data or credit card information using your own phone or laptop if you’re using public Wi-Fi at a library, coffee shop or airport. If you do have to enter personal data on a shared computer, be sure the log-out process is complete before you close the browser and walk away.
PenFed helps protect you
Keep an eye on unauthorized use of your credit card by signing up for PenFed security text alerts. These alerts come straight to your cell phone whenever PenFed detects suspicious activity on your accounts, from your credit card to the day-to-day money in your Access America Checking Account. A simple reply to the text alert will confirm the transaction or report it as fraudulent.
If you do spot unauthorized activity on your credit card statement, take immediate action if you believe your card has been lost or stolen. PenFed is committed to your security. Visit our credit card security center to learn more about how PenFed protects your money and information.