Securing yourself against credit card fraud—advice for cardholders

Credit card fraud has been around for years. But as our transactions continue to shift towards the online world, the frequency and severity of the attacks also rise.

Here are a few easy steps to help you minimise your risk of becoming the next victim of a credit card fraud attack…

Strong passwords

“Use a strong password” is advice we’ve all heard many times. We’ve been trained to believe that a secure password should ideally be long, and have a mixture of numbers, letters, capitals and symbols.  We know not to use phrases and or capitalisations conventionally, and shouldn’t rely on obvious numerical substitutions.

And if mashing your fingers into the keyboard to come up with a random assortment of letters and symbols sounds like the only option, think again.

Instead, try to think of something that is meaningful and therefore easier for you to recall (but not birth dates or wedding anniversaries). For example: “My first car was a Datsun 240”.   This can be created into a memorable password of “MfcwaD240”. Sometimes it means getting creative.

If remembering one or two simple sentences still sounds too taxing, another option is to think of six, short, easy-to-remember, random words. For example, “dream, henna, July, beret, pen, fog”. These words are unconnected, making it difficult for a machine to guess, but easier for a person to remember. And don’t stress—they’re not meant to make sense.

Two factor authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA), is also known as multi-factor authentication. It is, as the name suggests, an extra layer of security where not only the username and password are required, but also another piece of information that only the user would know.

Examples of 2FA include a text sent to your phone with a verification code which needs to be inputted before proceeding, or the use of hardware tokens. Multi-factor authentication is standard practice now for many large companies, including Google applications and financial institutions.

Don’t click the link

Phishing scams can be amazingly sophisticated. From a text message sent to your phone, to an email that looks exactly like the company it purports to be from—the one thing these scams have in common is that they ask you to ‘click on the link’.  This then takes you to a page where sensitive information can be captured, used or sold.

Many of these scams can be avoided simply by remaining alert. Scrutinise emails carefully, before you download attachments. Remember not to click on anything where you don’t recognise the sender, and delete immediately if the message features a non-personalised greeting—like “Dear user”, for example. Also watch out for poor spelling and grammar.

Be extra suspicious about any email which contains “Urgent action required”, or a threat such as, “Your account has been compromised!”

Handy tip: Instead of clicking on a link, open a new browser window and go to the page as you normally would by typing the address into the URL bar. It’s a little extra work, but could save you from an expensive phishing scam.

Use an online payment service

Many companies now offer payment alternatives, rather than only giving you the option of entering your credit card details into their website where attacks often take place.

Instead, consider an online payment service, which is often quicker, easier and in many cases, automated. Alternatively, another safer alternative is a direct debit through a bank’s official website, if that option is offered.

Look for the padlock

Sometimes, entering your credit card details online can’t be avoided. If you have no other option, ensure that the site is a reputable one.  It should always have a padlock icon in the address bar and the address should be recognisable.

By taking these simple precautions, you can minimise your risk of being caught out by an unwelcome and costly credit card fraud attack.

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