Every time you use a credit card, you increase the chances of that card number being used fraudulently. Cards can be skimmed and hacked in a number of different ways.

Watch your card. Whenever you hand your credit or debit card to a salesperson or waiter, watch to see where your card is taken and what is done with it. It’s normal for the card to be swiped through a point of sale terminal or keyboard card reader. But if you happen to see your card swiped through an additional reader that doesn’t coincide with the transaction the card number may have been stolen.

Cover your PIN. There may be cameras or “shoulder surfers” recording your PIN at an ATM or point of sale terminal. Cover up the keypad to foil the bad guys’ plan.

Change up your card number. This is inconvenient but effective. The more frequently you change your number, the more secure that number will be. Once or twice a year is good.

Select online shopping websites carefully. When searching for a product or service online, do business only with those you recognize. Established e-retailers are your safest bet.

Beware of phishing. Never purchase products or services by responding to an email. This generally results in your card number being phished.

Use secure sites. Before entering a credit card number, always look for “https” in the address bar. The “s” in “https” means the site has an additional layer of protection that encrypts the card number.

The most important tip of all is to watch your statements. This extra layer of protection requires special attention. If you check your email daily, you ought to be able to check your credit card statements daily, too, right? Once a week is sufficient, and even once every two weeks is okay. Just be sure to refute any unauthorized withdrawals or transactions within the time limit stipulated by your bank. For most credit cards, it’s 60 days, and for debit cards the limit can be 30 days or less.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses credit card fraud on NBC Boston. Disclosures



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