Credit card fraudsters and scammers are everywhere, it seems. Sometimes they skim your card number at a place where you frequently shop or dine. Other times, you’re not sure how they got your number and were able to use it – you just know that someone, somehow, got your credit card number and expiration date (or your debit card number and PIN) and used your account to buy airline tickets, electronics or other purchases. That’s credit card fraud.
Sometimes the crooks try to get your credit card number a little more directly – through a brazen scam. Some examples:
- Someone pretending to collect money for a legitimate charity calls and requests a donation via your credit card.
- Scammers pretending to be roofers, yard workers or other contractors show up at your door, give you a temptingly low quote for work you need done anyway, and ask for a deposit before they begin the work. Then you never see them again.
- A con man (or woman) calls, claiming to be with the utility company, and says that your account is past due and your service will be disconnected unless you pay promptly…with your credit card. They helpfully offer to take your card information so you can pay right away and avoid interruption of service.
Some of these scammers can be pretty convincing, and if someone skims your credit or debit card number, you might not know until they’ve done a lot of damage. So how do you protect yourself against credit card fraud and credit card scams?
Consumer protection against credit card fraud
The good news is that credit cards offer their customers a pretty good measure of protection. Federal law doesn’t hold consumers liable for anything over $50 when your credit card is used without your authorization.
When there’s unusual activity on your credit card, most credit card companies will call you to authorize the last several transactions. Even if the credit card company doesn’t call to confirm whether suspicious transactions are authorized by you, as long as you report the activity and file a claim as soon as you find out about it, the credit card provider won’t hold you liable.
How to avoid credit card scams and fraud
Still, who wants to be the victim of any kind of credit card scam or fraud? Use these tips to protect yourself and your credit cards, debit cards and bank accounts from the bad guys:
- If someone calls claiming to be from the utility company, whether your account is current or not, tell the caller that you’ll call back shortly to make the payment. Then call the company’s main phone number to check your account status and pay if need be. Don’t use any number the caller tells you to use.
- Consider using one credit card or debit card for in-person charges and another one for online purchases. That helps you narrow down the source of any credit card fraud that may occur.
- For the credit and debit cards that you use most often, check your account balances and transaction history frequently to make sure no unauthorized activity has occurred.
- And if you do use a debit card often, use it as a credit card (without having to enter the PIN) whenever possible.
Credit card fraud and scams are a nuisance and an outrage. Luckily, they’re also pretty easy to avoid and fix if your card number is stolen and used without your permission. And if you are diligent about monitoring your accounts, the most a scammer will cost you is a little time and aggravation.