Credit card fraud is in the news every day. It seems like criminals are always finding new ways to victimize unsuspecting people. Your best defense against becoming a victim yourself is to understand common forms of credit card fraud and then take appropriate measures to protect yourself. Knowledge is power for the consumer and the worst enemy of criminals. By being careful, you’ll reduce the chances of falling to the schemes of criminals. Here are some common forms of credit card fraud.

False Applications

Criminals may apply for credit cards in your name. If they succeed in getting a card issued, they will go on a spending spree, racking up large balances in your name. Criminals sometimes do this type of fraud by stealing credit card applications and the newly issued card itself from your mailbox. Other criminals may apply in your name online if they have access to information such as your birthdate, Social Security number, and employer. Financial institutions have several verification steps to stop these acts. Your best course of action is to make sure your mail is delivered to a secure location.

Skimmed Information

Credit card fraud has gone high tech. Through several means, criminals can skim the information off the magnetic strip of a card. There are devices that can skim information off the cards in your wallet as someone simply walks past you. Additionally, skimming devices are sometimes placed in card readers at retail establishments, especially at gas station pay-at-the-pump bays. You can purchase blocking protectors that foil skimmers trying to read cards in your wallet. As far as card readers at gas pumps or other places, if the device looks tampered with, don’t insert your credit card.

Stolen or Lost Cards

If a criminal is in physical possession of your card, he may first test it with a small purchase and then start making larger purchases. A criminal with your card in hand will act quickly before you notice it’s gone and cancel it. Cards can go missing for many reasons, including being stolen from your mailbox, a pick pocket getting your wallet, or you simply misplacing it somewhere. Cancel your missing cards immediately.

Phone and Online Fraud

To make fraudulent phone and online purchases, a criminal doesn’t need to have your card, but rather just the account number, expiration date, and security code number. To protect yourself, keep your credit card close at hand. If your card is ever out of your sight, you risk having that information copied.

Hacked Merchants

Many merchants are falling victim to hackers who access their databases containing personal and financial information about customers. If this happens to you, you may be notified by the merchant and your credit card may be replaced by your financial institution.

How to Protect Your Financial Information

Credit card fraud should be taken seriously, but it shouldn’t cause you undue stress either. By taking precautions yourself, and the security measures used by financial institutions, you enjoy many protections against fraud. The best ways to protect yourself include keeping your financial information confidential, monitoring your credit card accounts, and checking your credit report for suspicious activity. If you do become a victim of credit card fraud, most financial institutions will reverse fraudulent charges made on your account, if you report them. By working together with your financial institution, you can enjoy the conveniences of credit cards without undue worry.