Credit card fraud is a real threat, and it can happen to anyone. As more and more services require credit information to be kept on file upon signing up, more and more information is stored.

Hackers have gained access to consumers’ credit information by attacking department stores, banks and other establishments. Taking these simple precautions may help to save you from the headache of having your credit information stolen.

  1. Be alert and aware of where your card is at all times
  • Keep your card in a wallet or inner pocket so that it is not easily accessible or readily visible to potential pick pockets.
  • Only carry as many cards as you absolutely need for the outing or errand at hand. Limiting the number of cards that you carry limits the damage in the event that your wallet or bag is stolen with your card inside. Leaving unnecessary cards at home or in a lockbox or secure location lowers your risk.
  • During transactions, only keep your card out for as long as necessary. Thieves can potentially take cell phone photos of your card without you realizing it while you are in line at the grocery store, paying for gas, etc.
  • When leaving a restaurant, hotel, store or other establishment where you have handed over your card to pay, be sure to double check that you were given your card back. Cards get left behind all of the time, and whenever your card is in someone else’s possession, it as at risk of being compromised.
  1. Don’t lend your card to anyone, or let anyone use it without you being present
  • You may be inclined to let your friend or family member borrow your card, or you may even give it to them so that they can run an errand for you. This is not a good idea, as even someone who you think you can trust may be tempted to use your card for purchases that you don’t know about, or even steal your card information.
  • You should always be the one to authorize payments with your credit card. This way, if there is a charge that you know that you personally did not make, you can more easily dispute it.
  1. Shred or destroy anything with your credit card number or information on it before throwing it in the garbage
  • Credit card statements, bank statements and outdated cards should all be shredding, cut or torn before they are thrown out. Thieves will not hesitate to go through your garbage to find your credit information.
  • Separating your account number from your name and address is important. Make sure that you shred or cut the cards or statements in a way in which they cannot be easily pieced back together.
  • To go one step further, throw the shredded bits into different trash bags so that even if one bag is compromised, all of the necessary information will be there.
  1. Be diligent about checking your statements
  • Even if all you use your card for is gas or groceries, taking a few minutes each month to look over your statements is a worthy habit to build. Fraudulent charges are easy to spot, especially if you generally use your card in the same locations.
  • If a charge looks suspicious, report it immediately. Call the customer service number associated with your card. Most of them are printed on the back of your credit card, or can be found online. A simple call could help determine if a charge is fraudulent, and the customer service representative should be able to explain where and when these charges were made.
  • If it is determined that your card has a fraudulent charge on it, cancel that card right away to avoid further fraudulent charges.
  1. Be aware of known credit card phone scams in your area
  • Phone scams are becoming more and more popular, where thieves are posing as debt collectors, telemarketers, and even IRS agents or police officers, in an attempt to get consumers to give up their credit information. They often try to intimidate people into paying large sums of money to avoid jail time, wage garnishment or repossession.
  • The IRS, police or other government organizations will never require you to pay over the phone, and will never call you directly. You will always receive written correspondence for any debt or collections related issues.
  • Never give your card information over the phone on a call that you did not initiate.
  • Check online for reported scams, and be aware of the signs.