A recent Gallup poll shows that the hacking of retail stores and the resulting theft of credit and debit card information is the crime that is feared most by Americans – and with good reason. Identity theft, including the fraudulent use of credit cards by identity stealing hackers accounts for more dollars lost than all other property crimes combined. Soon we will be heading into the holiday shopping season when credit card shopping both at brick and mortar stores and online will dramatically increase as will the attempts by hackers to steal credit card and debit card information so it is particularly important for everyone to be vigilant when using their credit and debit cards. The bad news is that there is nothing that we, as individuals can do to reduce the chances of a major data breach at large and small retailers with which we do business, however, the good news is that there is a lot we can do to minimize our exposure.
First and foremost, do not use your debit card for any purchases. Limit its use to ATMs. The consumer protection laws regarding fraudulent debit card use are not as strong as the laws pertaining to fraudulent use of credit cards. Potentially, you could lose the entire bank account tied to your debit card if you are not carefully monitoring its use. In addition, even if you do notify your bank immediately upon promptly noticing fraudulent use of your debit card, your access to your bank account will be frozen while your bank investigates the crime.
Also, when shopping in brick and mortar stores, you may wish to patronize those stores, such as Wall Mart which are ahead of the pack when it comes to transitioning from the old magnetic strip credit cards to the new smart cards with computer chips that would eliminate the risk of your credit card number being captured by a hacker and used for fraudulent purchases. You also may wish to consider using the new Apple iPay system which also provides greater protection from hackers.
When shopping on line, limit your shopping to the websites of stores that you know are legitimate and make sure that your communications with the website including the providing of your credit card number is encrypted. You can confirm this by looking at the website address and making sure that it begins with “https” rather than merely “http.” It is important to note that even if you are using a smart card with a computer chip you are not protected from hackers when shopping online because in this instance you are not generating a new number each time you shop.
As we get closer to the holiday season, I will providing you with more tips to avoid holiday scams and identity theft schemes.