Credit Cards

Credit Card Fraud – The Do’s and Don’ts That Will Ensure Your Money Is Safe

How to prevent credit card fraud

Jeff Cuellar

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Credit cards are a big reason why Singaporeans have so much purchasing power. After all, most credit card companies give you a credit limit that’s 3X to 4X your monthly income – and some, like the American Express Platinum cardhave no pre-set spending limit at all.

Now multiply that credit limit by the number of credit cards you have right now – depending on what kind of plastic you’re carrying, you’re easily walking around with $20,000+ to $60,000+ in your wallet!

Now just imagine for a minute what could happen if someone got a hold your credit card(s) or your credit card account information – that person would have $20,000+ to $60,000+ from your credit line to spend!

That’s what credit card fraud is – it’s when someone uses your card or card information to make unauthorized transaction, and it’s a growing problem not just in Singapore, but all over the world.

Fortunately, there are measures you can take to prevent that from happening:

 

Credit Card Fraud Prevention Do’s

The only way to prevent credit card fraud is to be vigilant – there’s no way around it. Keeping a close eye on your cards (physically) and on your credit card activity is the easiest way to ensure that any financial funny business doesn’t go unnoticed.

After all, the last thing you want is to be lining up at the grocery store or at your favourite retail shop to pay for your purchase only to find out your credit card was declined because *shock* you went over your credit limit.

Except that it wasn’t “you” that went over your credit limit – but a fraudster using your card!

Here are the credit card fraud prevention do’s you must be aware of:

 

Go Paperless with Your Credit Card Statement(s)

Do you still receive paper statements from your credit card issuer? Well, aside from the fact that you’re probably being charged a fee for receiving a paper statement – you’re also putting yourself at greater risk for credit card fraud.

It doesn’t matter whether a fraudster gets a hold of your statement(s) by stealing your mail or going through the trash. What matters is how fraudsters will use your statement(s) – to dig up enough of your credit card details to make unauthorized purchases.

Instead, take the paperless route by requesting that your statement be delivered electronically. That way, you can eliminate the possibility of someone rummaging through your garbage or mailbox.

 

Monitor Your Credit Card Statement(s) Closely

If you file away your credit card statements without reading them, throw them away (hopefully after shredding them) or check your online credit card account once every month or two – there’s a greater chance that you won’t catch credit card

Ideally, you’ll want to hold onto every receipt you make with your credit card and match it up against the transactions appearing on your statement to ensure that: A) no one’s making unauthorised purchases with your credit card(s) and, B) you’re not being overcharged by retailers.

By checking your credit card statements regularly, you can  any suspicious charges made with your card so you can notify your credit card issuer to immediately dispute them.

 

Make Use of Credit Card Account “Alerts”

Do you ever sit at your work desk wishing you could be somewhere else? We all do that. But when your credit card happens to be used in China or the United states and you’re still sitting around in Singapore – it’s a big hint that your credit card has been compromised.

Remember, credit card fraud is an international crime that can be committed from anywhere.

Thankfully, many credit cards offer “alarms” that send you an SMS or email whenever a charge over a certain amount is made (or an overseas purchase is made). Some credit cards even provide alerts that send you an SMS/email alert for every charge made on your card.

Alerts are great because they give you time to call up the credit card issuer and dispute any suspicious charges made to your card.

 

Monitor All Physical Credit Card Transactions

Any time you give your credit card to someone to pay for your meals, drinks or any other purchases really – make sure you monitor exactly what that person does with your card.

The reality is that there are plenty of ways to become a victim of fraud once you hand over your credit card, but the worst is through skimming. That’s because skimming basically allows fraudsters to “steal” your credit card – without physically needing to steal it!

With a skimming machine, all a fraudster needs to do is swipe your card on the device’s card reader to obtain your credit card information. And once they have that, all a fraudster needs to do is reprint a counterfeit card using your card’s data to make unauthorized purchases.

This type of credit card fraud is especially common at bars and restaurants. That’s because it’s easier for an employee to inconspicuously skim your card’s data while you’re still engaged with company.

Be especially wary of credit card fraud when travelling abroad as credit card scams (especially credit card “skimming”) are becoming increasingly common. And remember, keep an eye on whether your card is being swiped twice, because that first or second machine might actually be a skimmer!

 

Contact Your Credit Card Issuer if Your Card Goes Missing (or is Stolen)

Keeping an eye on your credit cards, both physically and by monitoring the transaction activity on your statements or online accounts, is the easiest way to know whether your card is lost or stolen. After all, if you look at the tips above, a fraudster doesn’t need to physically “steal” your cards to make unauthorised purchases with them!

But the easiest way to become LIABLE for someone else’s fraudulent purchases is to ignore your credit card activity! Unauthorised purchases don’t need to be in the thousands. Some fraudsters intentionally make smaller purchases on credit cards with large credit limits so that it’s easier to “slip by” inattentive card users.

So make sure you actively scrutinise credit card transactions on your account and if you notice your card is “stolen” or missing – inform your credit card issuer immediately!

If your card is stolen or missing, the most you’re liable for is $100 – of course, that’s only if the credit card issuer determines that you didn’t act fraudulently, were “grossly” negligent or failed to inform it in a timely manner (the time limit varies by credit card issuer).

 

Credit Card Fraud Prevention Don’ts

Vigilance is your best weapon against credit card fraud. You should always know exactly where your credit cards are, how many you have, how often you use them and what you use them for.

Plus, it’s also pretty helpful to double check your credit card statement(s) often just to make sure the ONLY purchases being made with your card are yours.

Of course, there’s one more key factor you should be paying attention to when it comes to preventing credit card fraud – never reveal your personal information to anyone you don’t know whether it’s on the phone, via SMS, through email or regular mail.

Here are the credit card fraud prevention don’ts you must be aware of:

 

Don’t Fall for Phishing Scams

What makes phishing scams so dangerous is that they are tricky to recognise. The fraudster will look, sound and act legitimate when communicating with you – whether it’s through email, phone, SMS or regular mail.

Here are two common phishing scam examples:

  • If a Fraudster Calls You: He/she will sound very nice and professional and might even use the real name of someone working for a bank, government agency or retailer. He/she might say that your account was “compromised” or that they need to verify your personal information, login info, credit card number, pin number, etc. – DON’T DO IT!
  • If a Fraudster Emails You: He/she will email you using the same format, signature and logos a bank, government agency or retailer. The email may even have a working link that goes to a landing page where you have to enter your personal information or credit card number – DON’T DO IT!

Keep in mind that phishing scams will also try to get your information through offers (ex. coupons, free rewards, etc.) and account related issues (ex. account upgrades, account validation, account alert, etc.).

So before you give out your personal details to a stranger, just remember that banks, credit card companies, government agencies will NEVER call or email you asking for your personal information – especially your credit card number!

 

Don’t Overlook Suspicious Credit Card Purchases on Your Statement

Not checking your credit card statement(s) is bad enough when it comes to paying for someone else’s unauthorised charges, but it’s even worse to see a suspicious charge and completely ignore it because you “think” it might be a charge you made.

Not every fraudster will make big purchases using your credit card – some fraudsters will make smaller unauthorised purchases on multiple cards to avoid being caught too soon. And if you have a large credit limit and make numerous purchases per month, it can be an easy thing to miss.

Unfortunately, credit cards issuers in Singapore don’t make the credit card charge dispute very easy – as you’ll have to fill out numerous forms and pay a “retrieval fee” (ex. $5.00) per dispute. And if you don’t file a dispute within 10 to 14 days date of the disputed transaction – it’s on you.

But it’s even worse to pay for the unauthorised charges made by someone else using your credit card!

 

Don’t Let Your Credit Card out of Your Sight

Whether you’re making a purchase at your favourite retail store or you’re going out for a night on the town with your closest friends – you should always keep track of where your credit cards are at all times!

Unfortunately, fraudsters love to prowl places where alcohol is present – especially overseas!

You shouldn’t let your credit card out of your sight (especially at bars and clubs) for two huge reasons:

  • Because Thieves/Pickpockets are a Problem: There are plenty of ways you can have your credit card stolen by fraudsters. They might be bold enough to pretend to be staff and ask for your card so you can make payment or they might also straight up pickpocket your wallet while you’re busy talking to someone. By the time you figure out that you’ve “lost” your card, the scammer is already purchasing a cartful of items at his favourite online store.
  • Because Skimming is a Problem: Skimming involves a fraudster using a credit card reader, which can electronically store all of your credit card information, and sometimes, it’s the bar/restaurant’s staff members that are doing it. When you hand over your credit card, keep an eye on where your card is going or follow the staff member to make sure your card is only being swiped at the establishment’s device and not a skimmer.

Don’t forget – if you do find out that your credit card has been lost or stolen – call your credit card issuer to cancel it immediately!

 

Don’t Expose Your Credit Card

Yes, flashing around your credit cards while waiting in line to make payment or sitting at a bar stool waiting to pay for your drinks is a great way to attract thieves who like credit cards with high credit limits (especially overseas).

But that’s not the only reason you shouldn’t be flashing around your credit cards.

You have a smart phone right? Then you know that smart phones allow you to zoom in and take some really good pictures.

Fraudsters like them too for the same reason – to snap photos of your credit card while you’re not paying attention.

What’s worse, if you’re paying with your debit card, they can snap a photo of your card AND check out your pin number too if they’re sneaky enough!

So keep your credit (and debit) cards in your purse or wallet until you’re ready to make your purchase!

 

Have you ever been a victim of credit card fraud? How did you resolve the situation? 

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Jeff Cuellar

I'm known by many titles: copywriter, published author, literary connoisseur, ex- U.S. Army intelligence analyst, and Champion of Capua.