Protecting yourself from identity theft with credit cards and on-line-part 2 of 3

In part one, we focused on some practical everyday things that can be done to prevent identity theft while using your credit cards and being on-line.  If you have credit of any kind, or are on the internet, the part one list isn’t enough to do to protect yourself. The unfortunate double-edged sword of our inter-connectivity is the ready dispensing of information.  People who want your personal information can probably get enough of it on the internet to cause some discomfort, but there is no reason to make it easy.

  • Get on the opt-out list to reduce or eliminate credit solicitations. By phone (888)567-8688 or on the web www.optoutprescreen.com
  • If the ATM or card reader devices look different than usual, don’t use the machine and ask an employee at the place of business to check it out.  Identity thieves can use a portable storage device on ATMs or credit card readers to collect your account and password information through ‘skimming.’  A recent news report suggested using ATMs and credit card readers that are visible to attendants in the business where you are using your card-in an effort to prevent identity theft while using your credit or atm card in a seemingly safe environment.
  • Keep your credit or debit card in your pocket until it’s time to complete your sale.  New features on your credit or debit card may allow the card to be read without being run through a reader.
  • If you don’t complete a credit card sale, make sure the cashier cancels it; remember some stores do not even require signatures if they are under $50.
  • Debit cards can be used like a credit card, requiring only a signature.  Guard it as you would a social security card.  While you may get your money back, you may run short on cash in the meantime.
  • When using your credit card, make sure extra imprints of your card are not made if there are, get them back instead of letting them throw them away.
  • When a merchant returns your card, make sure the card has your name on it.
  • When shopping with your credit card, have the receipt given to you instead of in the bag-that way your name and account number will not be with a thief if the bag gets stolen.
  • Be aware that in a restaurant, giving your card to wait staff means your card is not secure while it’s away from you.
  • Do not respond to solicitations from any e-mail, including seemingly authentic ones, from banks and other creditors requesting your personal information, including passwords; reputable businesses will not ask you to confirm private information.  Contact the institution by phone yourself using the numbers you have on bank or credit statements and ask them if they have requested information.  Identity thieves try to get information this way by ‘phishing’.  This is a critical step in preventing identity theft while being on-line.
  • When using the internet, make sure firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware are installed and kept up to date.
  • Never click on links or download attachments sent in an unsolicited e-mail, even if it looks like its coming from a known source.  It’s safer to enter the companies website on your own, rather than clicking on the provided link.
  • Order and pay for items only at websites that are secure.  They should at the very least have ‘https:’ in the URL.