With the findings of our 2013 Consumer Fraud Liability Study in mind, we at Card Hub recommend the following tips for consumers looking to minimize their vulnerability to losses resulting from unauthorized transactions:
- Make a credit card your primary spending vehicle: Major card network policy shields all consumers from any fraud liability for unauthorized credit card transactions, and the alternatives are less secure given their debit-based nature and the uneven liability safeguards that apply to them.
- Regularly review your payment accounts: The best way to ensure minimum fraud liability, regardless of the type of payment vehicle you’re using, is to spot any unauthorized transactions as soon as possible and report them to the respective financial institution that issued your card. In other words, make it a practice to regularly review your account activity (we recommend doing so weekly) and make sure to save your receipts in order to compare them with the transactions that appear on your statement.
- Sign for debit card transactions, when possible: Though debit card transactions “verified” by signature account for a relatively higher share of all fraudulent debit card transactions than those “verified” by PIN, consumer liability is lower when a signature is used since card networks want to promote such transactions given their increased profitability.
- Don’t leave room for doubt: Never leave the final amount of a transaction open for interpretation. That means, for example, making sure to always fill in the “Tip” field on a bill, even if you’re only going to write “$0.00.”
- Safeguard your PIN: When using a card with a Personal Identification Number (PIN), make sure not to tell others what it is, write it down anywhere that a third party could access it, or let bystanders see it when inputting it at the point of sale or ATM.
Be careful about whom you share account information with: In addition to making sure that no one but you knows your PIN, there are a few other simple steps that you can do to prevent sensitive financial information from falling into the wrong hands and ultimately putting a dent in your bank account:
- Do not provide financial information to another party unless they are reputable and you reach out to them first, as opposed to them proactively contacting you over the phone or via e-mail.
- Do not send private account information (e.g. your credit card number or online banking password) via e-mail, as it doesn’t tend to be secure.
- Make sure that any website through which you submit a credit card number has an address that starts with “https” and a domain name that matches the name of the site you’re on.
- Shred any documents that contain financial account numbers before throwing them away and make sure to update your address on file with your bank/card issuer if you move.
7. Don’t worry so much: While it’s clear that people are generally quite concerned with the prospect of fraud, the tiny percentage of transactions that it affects and the consumer-friendly liability safeguards that are in place mean that you have very little to worry about, particularly if you take the aforementioned steps to minimize your vulnerability.