Recent surveys suggest that fewer Americans are concerned about the possibility of credit card theft. This year, 34 percent of respondents told Gallup that they worried “frequently” about having their credit card information stolen, while 35 percent said they worried about it “occasionally.” This is slightly down from last year, when 41 percent said they frequently worried about credit card theft.
On one hand, it is true that incidents of this particular type of crime have decreased slightly in the past year. In 2014, 27 percent of respondents told Gallup that they or a household member had their credit card information in the past year. In 2015, only 22 percent said the same thing. However, 2014 is widely regarded as a record year for credit card theft, suggesting that the drop in 2015 may be a return to a statistical norm, rather than a sign of decline.
The fact remains that credit card theft affects millions of consumers every year, and many people do not give the issue as much though as it deserves. Especially during this time of year, when people are doing some of their heaviest shopping both in stores and online, it is crucial that they take the precautions necessary to keep their crucial personal finance information safe.
How do thieves steal credit card data?
We all use our credit cards so often that we rarely stop to think about how vulnerable our information can be. Here are a few simple ways that thieves can steal your credit card data:
- At point-of-sale: You might be willing to hand your card to your waiter or salesperson without a second thought. While most people won’t try anything, there is a chance that these individuals may use a skimmer to take all of your card information while you aren’t looking.
- Gas and ATMs: Even if you don’t give your card to anyone, there is still a chance that you could become a victim of credit card theft. A common tactic that thieves use is to place card skimmers at gas pumps and ATMs. This allows them to collect card information without being anywhere in the area.
- Visiting the wrong website: Believe it or not, even a legitimate website can contain malware that can compromise personal financial information stored on your computer. Thieves will take advantage of websites with low security and install the malware, and then wait for unsuspecting web browsers to visit.
It’s important to make sure that you trust the websites you visit during your shopping sprees.
What can be done to prevent theft?
Given how easy credit card theft is, it can be difficult for consumers to protect themselves in every instance. The best strategy is to prepare for the eventuality and put a plan in place to respond to theft as it happens.
Obviously, you want to be careful about shopping at reputable places, where there might less of a chance of someone stealing your credit card information. Checking your bank accounts and credit files is imperative. Unless you’re doing this regularly, you might entirely miss unauthorized charges to your account that could indicate fraud of some kind.
Some people invest in a credit monitoring service, which can notify you of certain activities on your credit files that may indicate fraud. Some of these services not only monitor your credit files, but also provide monitoring for your bank accounts and can assist you in the event that your wallet is lost or stolen. Do some research and decide what features and services are most important to you. Once you find a company that can provide you with some of those services you can relax knowing your taking important steps to defend your finances.