Gearing up for the holidays, consumers are getting ready to pull a Wilma Flintstone and, “Charge it!” Many don’t realize that you cannot protect your credit card number. Every time you use a credit card, you increase the chances of that card number being used fraudulently.

  1. When handing your card to a clerk or cashier, pay close attention. The card should be swiped through a point of sale terminal or keyboard card reader once, maybe twice. If your card is swiped through an additional reader, the card number may have been stolen.
  2. Shop only at trusted sites. Phantom websites appear online all year round. They look legitimate, resembling well-known online retailers. But only do business those you recognize. Established online merchants are best.
  3. Unsolicited emails that request sensitive data such as credit card numbers or lead you to a too-good-to-be-true offer are most likely phishing emails. Don’t disclose your information, and don’t click unknown links.
  4. Check your credit card statements daily, if possible. Once a week is sufficient. 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.

Internet crime schemes steal millions of dollars annually from victims. If you are looking for more helpful tips, the Internet Crime Complaint Center is a great resource. Their site provides preventative measures that help you be more informed prior to making purchases on the Internet.

Holiday schemes will be in full force this year. Charge or purchase wisely.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses identity theft in front of the National Speakers Association. (Disclosures)

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