Financial Safety: 12 Tips to Avoid Credit Card Fraud (Part I)

You hear it all the time. A close friend or relative, the shop around the corner, or even a major corporation, suffering huge loss due to financial fraud – especially in the world of credit cards. When I use the term “credit card,” I am taking the liberty of establishing my own umbrella term, universally referring to credit, debit, cash and gift cards, as well as any other methods of payment vulnerable to scam artists, digital thieves, and even real-world, physical pick-pockets. At VPS, we are dedicated to the safe, authorized, and legal use of such cards, and your best interest is in our best interest.

Fraud of this kind costs cardholders and issuers alike approximately half a billion dollars each year, according to the Dept. of Homeland Security. Direct credit card theft obviously isn’t the only way a thief can commit fraud. While national laws limit consumer liability in these kinds of cases to fifty bucks (only if you report it promptly), we advise you take credit card fraud very seriously. Canceling a card can be a real headache, and it may take more than a week to receive a new one in the mail. Additionally, a lot of consumers have repeated, automatic billing to their card, implying an entire, ruined evening of contacting so many businesses to change their account numbers, cancel their memberships, or undo the criminal mischief themselves – all the while risking missed payments, because they’d be without a card for that time.

Although it’s not feasible preventing every possible instance of financial fraud from happening, you can do a number of things to make it much harder for a criminal to cheat you out of your hard-earned cabbage. Whether you are a customer, merchant, or both, these 12 basic principles, when executed properly, can protect you from a great deal of trouble.

  1. Study your statements frequently, and double-check your accounts each month, cross-referencing receipts with digital – or hardcopy statements.
  2. Do NOT leave cards, receipts, or bills in your mailbox, in your car, or sitting in clear view in your home.
  3. Promptly store all record of your cards and account numbers, as well as the contact information for each company.
  4. Never provide a signature on a blank receipt.
  5. Retain card receipts to compare with statements. This action will help you to see if a store cashier tried to rip you off by upping the price charged or altering a tip.
  6. Be sure to sign your replacement card – or a brand new one – as soon as it arrives in the mail.

Stay tuned for the second installment of our two-part series on protecting yourself from credit card fraud and abuse, and as it so often happens after – identity theft. These tips may end up saving your finances, your reputation, and even your very life one day, so pay close attention. Feel free to take notes, spread the word, and implement these guidelines in your financial life as soon as possible.