How to Protect yourself from Credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft

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If you’ve ever had your credit card stolen and used to make purchases, or had your identity stolen and used by an imposter to open a credit card, you know how frustrating it can be. Your credit rating can be damaged and it can take a long time to untangle the mess that is created.

Identity theft is the fraudulent use of someone’s personal information — like their name, Social Security number, or bank account number — to commit identity theft.

The good news is that you can take steps to secure payment in Australia. Here are some tips:

Know what’s going on with your credit cards

It’s important to be familiar with your accounts and credit cards so you’ll know if something goes wrong. Pay attention to your monthly statements when they arrive, so you’ll have an idea of when charges post and what the account balances should be.

The FTC estimates that credit card fraud accounted for $1.8 billion in losses in 2012, and those numbers have only gone up since then. Not only is it one of the most common forms of identity theft, but it can be some of the most devastating.

If you haven’t been a victim of credit card fraud yet, odds are you will be sooner or later. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to protect yourself from credit card fraud and identity theft — and if you know what to look for and how to take action, you can counteract these problems very quickly and minimize their harm.

Safeguard your personal information

Be careful about who you share it with — and how — since the more people who have access to it, the greater the chance it will fall into the wrong hands. Also, don’t carry around any information that doesn’t need to be on hand when you’re out and about, such as Social Security cards or birth certificates.

Don’t give out your personal information over the phone: If you receive an unsolicited phone call or an email claiming to be from a legitimate business asking for your Social Security number or other personal information, don’t provide it without verifying that the caller is legitimate.

Don’t leave your wallet or purse unattended

Make sure it’s with you at all times when you’re out, and always keep it secure on your person — don’t leave it on a table or unattended in a shopping cart while you look around the store. Keep an eye on it while you’re standing in line or talking with someone, because those are times when pickpockets frequently target wallets and purses.

Use cash instead of cards when possible. Paying with cash means that if someone steals your money, they can’t use it to drain your bank account or rack up huge bills on your credit cards. It also means that if someone robs you at gunpoint, what they get is what they get — there’s no way for them to access more money electronically later on.

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