As a Fairfax Criminal Defense lawyer for many years, I have had the opportunity to help many people who have been accused of credit card theft and fraud. Hearing the stories of the accused throughout the years has led me to the conclusion that most credit card theft and fraud activity are crimes of opportunity. Someone left their purse unattended. The credit cards were sitting open on someone’s desk at work. The account and password for a consumer website was left open on a public computer. Far and away it is these type of cases that come through the door of my law practice. If you take simple measures, you may avoid being a victim of credit card theft during the holidays.
1. Keep your credit cards safe.
Keep your credit cards in a purse or wallet close to your body where it can’t easily be snatched away. Ladies, make sure your purse is zipped. If you’re shopping in a high traffic area, carry a smaller purse. For both men and women, carry only the one or two credit and debit cards you’ll be using that day. Leave all your other credit cards at home. Thieves can take pictures of your credit card with a camera or cell phone, so don’t leave your credit card exposed any longer than necessary.After you make a purchase put your credit card away immediately. Confirm you have your credit card back in your possession before you leave the store or restaurant.
3. Don’t sign blank credit card receipts.
To avoid credit card fraud, always verify the amount on your credit card receipt before signing it. If you get a credit card receipt that has blank spaces in it, write $0 in those spaces or draw through them before putting your signature on the card. Otherwise, the cashier could write in an amount and send the purchase to your credit card issuer.
4. Avoid giving out your credit card information.
Only give out your credit card number or other sensitive information on calls you initiate to customer service using the number on the back of your credit card. Don’t return calls to a phone number left on your answering machine and don’t give your credit card number to anyone who calls you requesting the number. Credit card thieves have been known to pose as credit card issuers and other businesses to trick you into giving out your credit card number.
5. Be safe with your credit card online.
Don’t click on email links from anyone pretending to be your bank, credit card company, or other business who uses your personal information, even if the email looks legitimate. These links are often phishing scams and want to trick you into entering your login information on their fake website.
Only enter your credit card number on secure websites that you can be 100% sure are legitimate. To be sure a website is secure, look for a lock in the lower right corner of your internet browser.
6. Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
The sooner you report a missing credit card the less likely it is that you’ll have to pay for any fraudulent charges made on your credit card. Write down your credit card companies’ customer service number now so you’ll have it if your credit card is ever missing.
7. Review your billing statements each month.
Unauthorized charges on your credit card are the first indicator of credit card fraud. If you notice a charge you didn’t make, no matter how small, report the charge to your credit card issuer immediately. Your credit card issuer will tell you whether you should close your account to avoid credit card fraud.
You can also review the advice provided by the Federal Trade Commission concerning credit card theft.