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5 Tips to Protect Yourself From Credit Card Fraud This Holiday Season

Dec. 2, 2014
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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The holiday shopping season is in full swing and you’re going through your perfectly crafted gift list. But have you thought about how you’re going protect yourself from possible credit card fraud? Here are the Nerds’ top tips for keeping your credit card data as secure as possible this holiday season.

1. Use your chip-enabled credit card to shop

Many issuers have pre-emptively started putting EMV chips in their credit cards in preparation for the fraud liability shift in October 2015. Your chip-enabled card allows for transmission of dozens of pieces of information between the card, terminal and acquiring bank’s host, whereas traditional magstripe cards only process limited data and are easily compromised. Because of this, EMV credit cards are better equipped to protect you from fraudulent activity.

Of course, the EMV chip doesn’t matter if you don’t use it. Most credit cards in the United States with a chip also have a magstripe for those retailers without EMV capability, but you shouldn’t swipe out of habit. For retailers with chip readers, you should use your credit card in that way. Here’s how to use the chip in your card:

  • Insert your card into the terminal
  • Follow the prompts on the terminal
  • Remove your card when the receipt begins printing

There’s one other piece to this EMV puzzle, though. You should …

2. Shop at retailers with EMV-capable terminals

Using your EMV card isn’t enough to protect yourself from fraud this holiday season. You have to use the card’s chip at a retailer with an EMV card reader. Prioritize spending at stores with an EMV-capable terminal to keep your data more secure than magstripe transactions.

3. Avoid online shopping on unsecured networks

Public, unsecured Wi-Fi can be great when you want to browse the web on the go, but it isn’t ideal for accessing your accounts or shopping online. Thieves on the same network can easily acquire your username and password and see the information you’re accessing while on said network. Wait until you get home to check account balances and place online orders. And make sure your home Wi-Fi is password-protected to keep others from accessing your private network.

4. Keep track of all purchases made and check your statements regularly

It may be hard to determine whether or not your credit card has been compromised if you aren’t keeping tabs on your purchases. Hold onto receipts and check each purchase against your statement to ensure that, first, you haven’t been overcharged and, second, you haven’t been charged for a purchase you didn’t make. Yes, it’s boring and tedious, but you can’t rely on your issuer to catch every fraudulent transaction.

Dispute any erroneous charges right away — and understand that if your credit card is still in your possession, you’ll never owe anything on fraudulent charges. If your card has been physically stolen, you may owe up to $50.

» MORE: How to Dispute Fraudulent Credit Card Charges

5. Refrain from sharing account information with anyone

Your account information — including account number, PIN and credit card number — should be kept private. Avoid giving this information to anyone that you don’t share your account with, including friends and family members.

Shred documents with this information before throwing them away and avoid writing down sensitive information anywhere it can be seen by others. Not everyone is out to steal your credit card data, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.

The takeaway: Protect yourself from credit card fraud this holiday season by using an EMV card to shop at retailers with EMV terminals. Avoid shopping or accessing your accounts on unsecured Wi-Fi networks and keep track of your purchases to check them against your statement for fraudulent charges. Finally, your account information is a secret — avoid tempting outside parties to use your credit account by keeping your numbers to yourself. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Woman with umbrella and shopping bags image via Shutterstock