Credit card security explained

Credit card security explained

It’s your worst nightmare – you check your credit card statement and discover that someone’s racked up hundreds (or thousands) of pounds at your expense. Here’s what you can do to help secure your safety when it comes to your credit card.

James Martin Content Writer
minute read

What are the main types of credit card fraud?

Remote purchase fraud, where thieves steal your information and use your card details to buy items, account for the majority of credit card fraud. Lost and stolen cards being used without the owner’s consent make up the next largest type of fraudulent activity. Here are the main types of fraud in more detail:

Phishing - With this type of scam you might receive an email (or, for vishing scams, a call) purporting to be from your bank and asking you for personal information, such as your card details or security password or answers. This is usually done under a valid sounding but invented reason, like that of a ‘customer survey’, or even to ‘protect our customers against unusual activity on their account’.

You may also be asked to click on links to a website, from which viruses and other computer malware can be placed on your computer and your personal details are stolen, which could lead to you being affected by identity theft as well.  

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As a general rule, a bank will never ask you for your PIN, your online banking passwords, or ask you to send any of your personal or banking information by email or text. Remember, if it feels wrong – it probably is.

Skimming - This is when your card is passed through a machine that copies your card details. Skimming machines are small and portable, and can be used in restaurants or attached to cash machines.  

Contactless card fraud - Contactless payments are sometimes still regarded with suspicion. However, contactless card fraud is relatively low. That’s because contactless technology limits the value of purchases, and the number of times they can be used before requiring a PIN. So, the total potential monetary value of fraud with this type of activity is reduced. That said, you should always be vigilant when using your card and keep a close eye on bank statements and your credit report, in case of any unusual activity. 

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What are my rights if I’ve been a victim of fraud?

As distressing as credit card fraud is, you’re likely to be protected by your provider. As long as you weren’t involved in the fraud and you didn’t act negligently, then you should get a full refund. One example of negligence would be if you posted a photo of your new credit card on social media along with the card numbers.

The first thing you need to do if you notice any unusual activity on your statement or if you’ve had your card stolen, is to contact your bank or card issuer, through contact numbers generally published on their website or on the regular statements you receive from tem. 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 centreAction Fraud.

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4 ways to be alert for online scams 

  • Think twice about clicking on links or opening attachments from sources you don’t know.
  • If you’re in doubt, just hover your mouse over the sender’s email address and over the link in question, as text displayed on screen may mask the actual web address (URL) where you would be going to if you clicked. The details that appear should match the name of the sender. If they don’t, be cautious.
  • If you’re asked to follow a link, go to the site directly rather than clicking on the link.
  • Never respond to emails from unknown sources.

Top tips to help you stay safe online

Did you know that one in six consumers still uses the same password for all of their accounts? Try our secure password generator, which could be a good place to start being more secure online. By taking a few straightforward precautions you should be able to stay ahead of the criminals.

Ionut Ionescu, expert in data and security at Compare the Market. 

Here are some of Ionut’s tips for staying safe and secure online:

  • Use different passwords for all of your accounts – they should contain a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Set up automatic alerts on your credit card and other accounts. Most providers offer a variety of combinations, for example: any purchase for a good or service that you have not made before or with a provider from a different country, any purchase over a certain amount, etc.
  • Make sure your Wi-Fi network at home is encrypted with a password that isn’t easy to guess and which you change regularly. Change the default settings on your home internet router or hub, as some of these could facilitate hackers getting access.
  • Avoid disclosing sensitive information using public or open Wi-Fi networks (like in coffee shops, airports, pubs, etc).
  • If you’re entering sensitive (e.g. credit card) information, then look for web addresses that start  with ‘https://’ – the ‘s’ should indicate that your dialogue with the web site in question would be encrypted and your personal information and/or card details would not be sent in the clear over the internet. 
  • Ensure that your PC, laptop, tablet and mobile phone have the most up-to-date operating system or apps installed. 
  • Pay attention to notifications from your card provider about planned downtime and maintenance windows. Fraudsters could masquerade as IT support technicians ‘just checking a few details’ after or during such upgrades.
  • Install up-to-date security protection software (e.g. anti-virus, firewall, anti-malware, anti-spam, etc) on your computer, tablet and mobile phone.
  • Only download material from sources you know and trust and do not share your credit card details unless it is necessary. Be vigilant that the padlock symbol can be faked by hackers. 

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Used sensibly and securely, credit cards can be great tools for spreading the cost of items (goods and services), responsible earning of rewards and as a useful aid to budgeting.  

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