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Protecting Credit Cards and Bank Accounts from Hackers

by Bill Hardekopf

Data breaches and credit card fraud are becoming very common occurrences. A recent revelation that hackers stole credit card information from 63 Barnes & Noble stores is just the latest reminder.

Credit card fraud is not just isolated to the United States. A new global study by ACI Worldwide and Aite Group shows that one in four respondents have been a victim of credit, debit or prepaid card fraud during the past five years. Residents of Mexico and the United States have the highest percentage of direct experience with card fraud, at 44 and 42 percent respectively.

The study, conducted with more than 5,200 consumers across 17 countries, showed credit card usage declines after someone has been a victim of credit fraud. Cardholders who received replacement cards used the new card 46 percent less than the original card. More than 50 percent of victims used cash or another form of payment instead of a credit or debit card.

The survey also found that despite their experiences and concerns, many victims of fraud continue behaviors that put them at higher risk of financial fraud. They throw documents containing sensitive information into the trash without shredding them. They keep written records of PIN numbers. Some continue to provide personal information on public computers or computers without security software.

There is little you can do to prevent a hack attack at your bank or retailer. But you can take steps to protect your cards, bank accounts and personal information from thieves.

  • Sign your cards as soon as you get them.

  • Keep on eye on your card during the payment process.

  • Keep receipts and compare them with your billing statements.

  • Look at your account statements often. Immediately report questionable charges to the credit card issuer.

  • If you feel your information has been compromised, contact all three credit bureaus to put a freeze on your credit report to prevent your accounts from being opened without your knowledge. This may cost about $10 each.

  • Do not leave cards or receipts lying around.

  • If you use a wireless router, password protect it and enable the encryption to scramble the data you send online.

  • Change your passwords from time to time.

  • Don't give out your account number over the phone unless you made the call and you know the company. Don't email your credit card number to anyone.

  • Don't lend your card to anyone.

  • Ask your bank if it has free software to protect your bank account. For example, Bank of America offers Trusteer Rapport for its online banking customers.

Bill Hardekopf is CEO of LowCards.com, a site that simplifies the confusion of shopping for credit cards. It is a free, independent website that helps consumers easily compare credit cards in a variety of categories such as lowest rates, rewards, rebates, balance transfers and lowest introductory rates. It also gives an unbiased ranking and review for each card.

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