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How to Prevent Credit Card Fraud

How to Prevent Credit Card Fraud

The thud of a hefty credit card bill hitting your doormat is never a soothing sound. And when you open up the envelope and fail to recognise transactions, a sinking feeling can quickly turn into full blown nausea.

Credit card fraud is unfortunately a persistent problem for consumers, so it’s something you need to take seriously. Criminals constantly change tactics and make use of new technologies to do their best to access your line of credit. To fall victim, your card doesn’t even need to leave your wallet or purse.

For more information, see our guides to understanding credit cards, which credit card is best for me or find alternatives to credit cards here.

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Online credit card fraud

As the world wide web continues to grow, online credit card fraud grows with it. Being able to use your credit card to purchase all kinds of goods and services online is one of the biggest benefits of having a credit card, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Online hacking, phishing and sophisticated computer malware are just a few of the ways criminals can gain access to your credit card details.

Here’s how to stay alert to risks so that attempts to snare your card numbers are thwarted:

  • Be careful where you enter your card details

Visit websites directly by typing the address into your browser. Ensure a site displays the safety lock and https address before entering your card details. Don’t save details for future use and log out of all accounts online.

  • Practice practical and safe password use

Don’t use the same password across different accounts online. Whether it’s access to your credit card, a social network or a supermarket where you do your weekly shop,, create strong and unique passwords for each portal or site.

Don’t write them down, don’t share them and if any breaches of sites you have accounts with are reported, ensure you update your password straight away. This is even more important if you’ve broken rule number one and used your password on multiple accounts.

  • Be aware of potential phishing scams

These can come via texts on your mobile as well as emails. They may appear to be from a familiar organisation such as your phone provider. Some phishing emails – called spear phishing messages – can even include details like your name. If your details like name and email address are readily available or have been sold as part of a hacking scandal you may experience an influx of communications of this type. Never click on any links or reply with sensitive information or call any phone numbers.

Hovering over senders’ email addresses can often reveal that they aren’t who they claim to be. If there’s any reason to doubt who the email is from – and clues could include a strange email address or number or poor spelling or grammar – always contact the organisation directly by official channels.

  • Keep operating systems up to date

Along with keeping virus protection and firewalls on computers up to date, ensure your smartphone, tablet and computer/laptop operating systems are kept up to date.

  • Think about what you share online 

Have you shared your birthday, your mother’s maiden name, your favourite book, the name of your first pet? You might reveal this information innocently as part of a social media listicle. However, it’s all information that could be used to unlock your credit card accounts.

Credit card theft and other fraud tactics

Credit card theft can be a lucrative market for criminals. If your purse or wallet has been stolen on a night out it often won’t take long for a criminal to start trying to spend in your name, but technology means your physical card isn’t required for this to happen. Card-not-present fraud can be a result of people committing credit card fraud online or even purchasing items and services over the phone.

When fraudsters have a few of the relevant details, they can try to guess the rest of the information or try to extract it from you. Skimming cards and replicating them is another fraudster tactic.

Here are a few things you can do to stop fraudsters getting their hands on your cards and other useful information:

  • Never allow anyone to take your credit card out of sight.
  • Don’t store credit cards alongside other important identification documents like your driving licence, address, National Insurance number or passport.
  • Never write your pin code down to keep in your wallet, purse or worse still, stuck to your card.
  • Don’t share your card details with anyone over the phone if you have not initiated the call in the first instance and are confident that you are speaking to a reputable company. Your bank or the police won’t ever call and ask for your PIN.
  • Know where your cards are so that if you are robbed or burgled you can notify lenders straight away.
  • Close down unused credit card accounts and ensure you notify lenders of any change of address.
  • Shred statements or other letters with account details on and remove chips and magnetic strips from old cards before disposal.

How to report credit card fraud

Often, you might hear about potential credit card fraud because your bank or other card provider has alerted you through a recognised and trusted communication method. Alternatively, you might find your card is rejected at the tills or online. Or you may have only become aware of fraudulent transactions when examining your statement.

Your first step should be to contact your card provider on their official fraud line. A trained customer service adviser should then be able to guide you through any suspicious purchases and arrange for a hold to be put on your account while the matter is investigated. You should also report the crime to Action Fraud. These are the UK specialists in tracking down cyber criminals and alerting the public to the latest scams too.