When you get ready to pay a bill or make an online purchase, what’s the first
form of payment you reach for? That handy-dandy plastic card! From debit to credit, whether you’re at an ATM or making a purchase on-line, plastic payment cards are a way of life. They make our needs easy to meet, they’re convenient and widely accepted…but are we keeping those numbers safe?
Every day, all over the world, someone out there is trying to steal our card numbers and other personal information. Some folks print duplicate cards, others make large purchases on-line or sign up for personal services….all with card numbers that don’t belong to them. We’re always at risk of our cards being compromised. While cards are always a safer form of payment than cash, it’s important to keep our cards in a secure place and to use caution when putting our card numbers “out there.”
With the holiday season fast approaching, and since “desperate times call for desperate measures”, here are a few easy ways to keep your card information safe.
• Use the credit function of your debit card instead of using your PIN number. Credit card payments are processed differently and require a signature, while PIN based transactions are often seen as “same as cash.” Card providers, like VISA and MasterCard, have sophisticated fraud monitoring services in place, but they don’t consider PIN based transactions as potential fraud. With a credit transaction, we can file a claim and retrieve your funds much more quickly than we can with a debit transaction. Be aware that merchants would rather you use the PIN function because it makes transaction processing cheaper for them. If your payment method automatically asks for a PIN, change the payment type to credit or ask the attendant how to conduct a credit-based transaction.
• If you use your PIN, either at an ATM or at a point of sale, ALWAYS cover the key-pad when typing it in. Be aware of your surroundings, make sure no one is standing to close or looking over your shoulder. Some people can remember numbers and patterns easily…don’t make getting your PIN number an easy task!
• Choose PIN numbers and passwords that cannot be easily guessed, and change them regularly. Most people choose an easy number or password and use it for everything….which means that if someone knows your password for Amazon, they also know your password for Cloud Branch. The most commonly used PIN numbers are dates of birth and the last 4 digits of a Social Security Number. Pick a PIN and password that are easy for you to remember, but no one else would know. • Do not use ATMs that look like they’re in bad shape, that are broken or damaged, and are not owned by a bank or credit union. Off-site ATMs are often not maintained very well and may have a “card skimmer” attached to the card slot. A skimmer pulls information off your card’s magnetic strip so that a duplicate card can easily be made. Also, if you notice a camera facing down on the ATM keypad, it may have been added to the machine by someone trying to harvest card and PIN numbers. Look at all card slots (including gas pumps!) to be sure that there are no extra attachments on it. If an ATM or card slot looks bad, it probably is.
• Don’t give someone else free use of your card or share your PIN number. Handing your card to your friend of family member may seem innocent enough, but you are giving that person access to your personal funds. If you knowingly give someone access to your money, you’re opening the door for potential fraud. Use discretion and be extra cautious when handing someone your card. If you want someone to have access to your funds or card, contact your local branch to find out how to add them to your account.
• Keep a close watch on your account. Central Sunbelt, like a lot of other financial institutions, make keeping up with your account balance and history super easy. Online and mobile services allow you to look at your account any time, day or night, and are extra secure with log-in information. Also, set alerts to notify you of certain types of activity that occur on your account, that way you can’t miss anything!
• Keep your contact information up to date. Notify us if you get a new phone number or move to a new address. If we suspect that fraud is being attempted with your card, we will try to reach you by phone.
• Finally, add your financial institution’s local or toll-free phone number to your cell phone or address book, just in case you need to reach someone quickly. If your card is lost or stolen, stuck in an ATM machine, or if you have transactions on your account that you didn’t conduct, notify your financial institution immediately.
• Remember, your financial institution will NEVER ask you for your entire card number, PIN number, or other personal information pertaining to your card. Most places, like Central Sunbelt, already have that information on file, so there won’t be any need for us to you ask you for it. If someone asks you for that information, do not share it with them. If you believe your card may be compromised, contact your financial institution to find out how to get a replacement card.
Practicing card safety methods is an important task and will ultimately save you a lot of time and money.
Using your card is one of the safest ways to pay (because, let’s face it, if someone steals your cash, there is no way to get it back!), but each of us is responsible for keeping our information confidential and out of someone else’s hands.
If you have any tips, ideas, or experiences related to plastic card safety, please share that information with us in our Comments section!