If you think your credit, debit, or prepaid card is secure because it’s safely tucked away in your wallet, Billshark wants you to think again. The latest scam—amounting to $24.26 billion in losses worldwide in 2017—involves stealing your card data from a host of different places and using it to make purchases without having your card in hand.
How they grab your data
The thieves can steal your information by installing “skimmers”—hidden data readers—at gas stations, restaurants, ATMs . . . any place you swipe or insert your card. The chips on newer cards have reduced this type of fraud, but it can still happen in other ways.
It can also be lifted by unscrupulous waiters or clerks, through phone calls or phishing scams, cyberbreaches, malware on e-commerce websites, and of course, through data breaches. The latter has most likely affected all of us over the years, including through the Equifax breach, the OPM hack, and countless such incursions too numerous to mention.
“Recent figures suggest that over 80 percent of credit cards currently in people’s wallets have already been compromised,” Markus Bergthaler, director of programs and marketing for the nonprofit Merchant Risk Council, told The Washington Post recently.
They can then use this information any place you can make a purchase without needing the physical card. Called a “card not present” or CNP transaction, this is of course a necessity to order online. Also when you order anything by phone or by mail. Of course, the thieves are shopping that way, as well, but with your card information.
What you can do
There are several steps you can take to prevent, or at least minimize, this type of fraud.
- Set up your security settings on your card account to send you a text on every CNP transaction. This way, the transaction can be denied immediately.
- Never use your debit card for anything other than at a bank’s ATM.
- Use one card for all online purchases. Better still, use a prepaid card (many banks and credit unions offer them for a small monthly fee).
- Pay cash at bars or restaurants when possible. If you don’t have the cash to cover the purchase, at least be sure the waiter doesn’t walk away with your card—have the card processing device brought to your table.
- Watch for card skimmers, especially at gas stations, a top target for these devices. If anything about the card slot looks peculiar (signs of tampering, loose hardware, etc.), even at your bank, walk away and report it to the merchant.
- Let your card company know in advance when you’ll be traveling, or when you plan to make a purchase that doesn’t conform to your usual spending habits.
- Never give out information in response to any email or phone call you didn’t initiate yourself.
- If it’s available, use PayPal. Unlike credit cards, it provides the option of two-factor identification for all purchases.
- Don’t buy online at stores that don’t have a lock in the URL window. Phone in your order instead.
- Use different passwords for every site you use to make purchases. If you can’t keep them all straight, there are a number of good password managers available to help.
And remember, Billshark is always looking out for your money. Contact us today and see how much we can help you save on your bills. The review is free; you pay nothing unless we save you money.