Protect Your Plastic
As soon as you receive a new debit or credit card, sign it
in ink and record your account number, expiration date, and
the phone number for reporting lost or stolen cards. File
this record in a safe, accessible place -- not in your wallet,
and periodically check your cards to make sure none are missing.
To save yourself a lot of hassle and to protect against identity
theft if your wallet is lost or stolen, carry only the cards
you need and keep the others in a secure place. And don’t
carry your Social Security card with you; keep it in a safe
When you use your cards, make sure the total purchase amounts
are correct before you sign sales slips, draw a line through
any blank spaces above the totals, and don’t sign blank
Don’t let your cards out of your sight, and once you
get them back, double-check that they’re yours and take
What’s more, don’t leave your cards in cars,
glove compartments, or hotel rooms, and when using a terminal
remember to remove your card along with your receipt.
Each American is entitled to a free copy of their credit report
once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer
reporting companies upon your request. Regularly checking
and verifying the information in your credit report is crucial
to stopping identity theft. Staggering requests among the
reporting companies can help you view your credit over the
year. Your credit score can also be obtained for a nominal
fee. To request your free credit report by phone call toll-free
877-322-8228 or online at www.annualcreditreport.com.
In addition, to help prevent fraud, request that your name
be kept off credit bureau lists that creditors and insurers
use to send pre-approved offers. Thieves sometimes intercept
these solicitations and then use them to get credit in your
name. See the What is Identity Theft
in the Information Center for more information.
Don’t give your credit card number to anyone over the
phone unless you placed the call, and only if you’re
sure you’re dealing with a reputable company. And don’t
give any information to callers who say they need your credit
card or checking account number for "verification"
or security purposes.
Furthermore, never mail a postcard with your account information
on it; put cards in sealed envelopes instead. And don’t
loan your cards to anyone you don’t trust since you’ll
be responsible for anything they use it for. This includes
a member of your immediate family who uses your card with
or without your knowledge.
Before using your cards for online transactions, check out
website reputations and security policies. When you use a
secure browser (the software you use to navigate the Internet),
like Internet Explorer, and a website uses a secure Internet
technology, the information you send is encrypted.
If your credit or debit cards are lost or stolen, or you find
an incorrect or unauthorized transaction on your statement,
notify your card issuers immediately. They can add a fraud
alert to your credit file. Likewise, if you don’t get
your statement or card when expected, notify the card issuer
right away. If you think your cards have been stolen, also
call your local law enforcement agency right away.
VISA and MasterCard’s zero liability policies cover
most U.S.issued consumer credit card and debit card transactions
made over the card issuer’s network. So in general,
when you shop online, in person, or through the mail using
VISA or MasterCard cards, you’ll owe nothing in the
event of unauthorized or fraudulent use of your card or account
However, these policies don’t cover ATM and commercial
card transactions, or non-branded PIN transactions. And they
don’t cover losses if you were grossly negligent, which
may include your delay for an unreasonable time in reporting
The zero liability policies also don’t cover losses
if you were fraudulent in handling your account or card, or
if you failed to exercise reasonable care in safeguarding
your card from risk of loss or theft.
In these exception cases, the amount of loss you’re
liable for depends on the type of card you used and when you
notified the card issuer. Since the specifics vary depending
on your cardholder agreement, ask your financial institution
With the exception of online, telephone, and mail orders,
you should never be required to give your name, address, phone
number or other personal information to use your credit card.
Don’t write your Social Security number on your checks,
either, and don’t imprint your driver’s license
number on your checks.
Likewise, don’t give your credit card number to validate
your check. A credit card number added to the personal information
on your check gives thieves all the information they need
to create a counterfeit card or to commit telemarketing or
mail fraud. That’s why it’s illegal in many states
for merchants to even ask for this information.
Don’t leave receipts for thieves to find in places such
as gas station self-serve machines or in empty bags that get
tossed in the trash. When you get home, put all your card
receipts in one place so you can easily find them when you
get your monthly statements.
When your bill arrives, compare your receipts against your
statement for accuracy, and keep receipts for major purchases
in case there’s a problem with your merchandise. When
you’re ready to discard your receipts, shred them, or
at least black out or tear through the account number. Also
shred anything with your account number on it before throwing
it away, such as your monthly bill and the form that came
with your card.
To avoid foul play, use only well-lit, well-situated ATMs,
and avoid using them at night. If you feel threatened or uncomfortable
by the surroundings or any people in the area, trust your
instincts and find another ATM. Minimize the time you spend
at an ATM by having your card ready, filling out all forms
in advance, and putting your cash and card away immediately
after your transaction.
When using a drive-through ATM, lock your car doors and roll
up all the other windows. If you use an indoor ATM that requires
your card to open, don’t let any strangers through the
door with you. And always remember to take your receipt and
your card from the machine.
Treat your personal identification number (PIN) as the key
to your deposit account. If you’re allowed to choose
your PIN, don’t choose something obvious like your birthday,
street address, or phone number. Memorize your number, don’t
write it on your card or anywhere in your wallet, and shield
the keypad when entering it so no one can see you punch it
For more information