Because of the recent massive data breach at Target and other retailers, people everywhere are on high alert regarding credit card fraud. The thought of having one's sensitive data accessed by identity thieves capable of making unauthorized purchases with stolen payment information is certainly frightening and concerning.
Unfortunately, data theft is always a possibility in our increasingly complex world. Interconnectedness through the Internet and other electronic networks that store sensitive information makes us vulnerable to hackers and cyber criminals with sophisticated skills to compromise our privacy and financial stability.
Fortunately, drastically reducing one's chances of falling victim to data theft schemes is possible. Consider these three tips to avoid credit card fraud and protect your data.
- Be selective about the circumstances under which you give out personal information – Give credit card information only to familiar, reputable retailers. If in doubt about making a purchase over the phone or Internet, don't do it. Other options are always available. When contemplating a purchase from a new company, first do some research online to assure yourself that your data will be safe.
- Receive electronic bills rather than paper copies – While we often assume that identity theft is high tech in nature, this is not necessarily true. The easiest way to steal personal information is to simply find it on discarded bills and bank statements. By receiving only electronic bills, you avoid the possibility that someone finds your payment data and accesses your accounts from the information on discarded bills and statements.
- Enter credit card information only on secure, encrypted sites – Do you know how to determine if a website is secure and encrypted? If the site’s URL begins with HTTPS, the site is encrypted and safe for online purchases. If there is no S at the end of HTTP, this may be an unencrypted site that will possibly leave your data susceptible to access by a third party.
- Shop only with vendors who are PCI compliant. The payment processing industry created data security standards to protect you, the consumer. Any business that accepts credit cards must be PCI compliant. If you suspect a merchant’s credit card processing methods put your information at risk, avoid transactions with that business.
Following these three tips to avoid credit card fraud decreases the possibility that someone will access your data. Hopefully, the Target breach has increased awareness about credit card fraud among consumers and has encouraged retailers to improve protection for customers and prevent a similar incident in the future.