A simples guide to credit card security

It’s your worst nightmare – checking your credit card statement only to discover hundreds (or even thousands) of pounds have been racked up by someone else at your expense. Most of us know that we should take care of our credit cards but after a while it’s easy to get complacent (especially if you’ve not yet fallen victim to fraud). So here’s a reminder of what we all need to do to keep our plastic safe.

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The current state of card fraud

The losses made from card fraud in 2015 was a staggering £567.5 million – that works out at 8.3p for every £100 spent using a card. Our research also found that £2 billion had been stolen in cybercrime attacks in the last year. It’s a huge amount of money and fraud can be carried out in a number of ways, but as card security gets tougher, the fraudsters get cleverer so it’s even more important to be vigilant.

By far the largest type of card fraud (70% of it), is through what’s called ‘remote purchase’ fraud where thieves have stolen your information and used your card details to buy items online, by phone or through mail order. Lost and stolen cards make up the next largest type of card fraud – but it’s a tiny 13% compared to remote purchase fraud.

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Your rights if you’ve been defrauded

The worst thing when you’ve realised someone’s pinched your card or your details is not knowing what to do or who can help you – panic sets in and it’s easy to get in a muddle. But the one good thing about credit card fraud, is that you’re protected by the credit card provider.

So long as you weren’t involved in the fraud and you didn’t act negligently (such as posted a photo of your new credit card on social media along with card numbers – before you start sniggering, it has been done) then you should get a full refund. The most you might have to pay is £50, although most credit card companies would waive this.

The first thing you need to do if you notice any dodgy activity on your statement or if you’ve had your card stolen, is to contact your bank or card issuer. They’ll be able to cancel the card to prevent any further use; they’ll also be able to advise what to do next and re-issue you with a new card with new details. You should also report it to the national fraud and cybercrime centre, Action Fraud.

Types of scams

We’ve all heard the horror stories of how an email or phone call seemed genuine only to result in someone perfectly sensible becoming another fraud victim statistic. When we’re put on the spot or we’re distracted, it’s so easy for sense to go out the window but that’s why the government has launched their new ‘Take 5’ campaign. It encourages you to take a moment if you feel you’re being rushed into something so you can evaluate the situation and decide if it’s genuine so you can hopefully avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

It also pays to be aware of how the fraudsters work so you’ve got a better chance of catching them out. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Skimming – not just what you do with gravy tops, skimming is when your card is passed through a machine that copies your card details. Skimming machines are often small and portable and can be used in restaurants or even attached to cash machines. The trick is, to never let your card leave your sight.
  • Phishing – most of us have heard of this one, it’s when you receive an email pretending to be from your bank that asks you for personal information such as your card details or security answers; you may also be asked to click on links to a website which can then import viruses onto your computer and where your details can be taken. Your bank in general will not ask you for your personal details, PIN number or passwords. If it feels wrong, it probably is – stick with your gut instinct.
  • Vishing – similar to phishing in that someone pretends to be from your bank or another company but this time by phone. You may be asked for personal details or you may be told you’re in line for a refund (which of course means you’ll need to give them your bank details for the refund to go through).
  • Distraction – this is old school in comparison to other techniques and relies on simple tricks to distract you while someone picks your pocket. It could be as simple as someone knocking into you whilst you’re at the cashpoint – not only would they have seen you enter your PIN but they’ll then try and steal your card.
  • Contactless card fraud – contactless payments are still regarded with suspicion; but it’s incredibly difficult for money to be taken fraudulently. Contactless cards can be no more than 10 cm away from a payment device (and usually can be no more than 2cm away) and the retailer has to key in the amount to be debited for the transaction to go through. It’s unlikely that anyone could swipe money from your account just by walking past you. Of course, if it makes you feel better you can wrap your contactless card up in foil like a sandwich to prevent any dodgy ‘rays’ from penetrating your card.

Choosing a credit card

Scams and fraud shouldn’t mean you have worry every time you buy something online or use your card when you’re out and about. It’s just about being aware and sensible over how and where you use it and who you share your details with (no-one).

Credit cards are great tools for spreading the cost of items as well as budgeting so don’t be put off. There’s a credit card for everyone, whether you need to transfer an existing balance, you’re looking for a better APR, or want to be rewarded for your spending – whatever you need, find it right here at comparethemarket.com

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