Credit card theft is on the rise and improvements in technology make it easier for your information end up in the wrong hands. The Identity Theft Resource Center saw a 126 percent increase in exposed personally identifiable consumer information records in 2018. 

With so much risk, how can you prevent credit card theft online?

If you use credit cards to make purchases, understanding how to use them safely when shopping online is essential. Here are the best tips for protecting yourself when using a credit card.

1. Don’t Fall for Fake Shopping Websites
Fake shopping website scams are a threat to the security of your credit card. To prevent credit card theft online, be careful which websites you buy from. Fraudsters can disguise marketing emails to make them appear as if they came from a real shopping site. However, you could be directed to a fake site if you click on the link in the email.

If you want to make purchases online, type the URL to the store in the address bar in your browser to help ensure you’re taken to the correct website. Make sure the site has a valid security certificate by looking to see if there’s a padlock icon near the website address. If you suspect a fake shopping website, contact the Federal Trade Commission.

2. Monitor Accounts Daily
Finding fraudulent activity as soon as possible can limit the amount of damage done to your credit. Check your online statements at least every few days. If you suspect fraud, federal liability protection can help. To take advantage of this option, it is crucial to verify and report each instance of fraud within 60 days of its occurrence.

Credit monitoring apps can check your accounts around the clock and notify you immediately if there’s a problem. Credit Sesame and Credit.com are two popular choices to manage your credit and monitor for unauthorized activity.

If you’ve already been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, a credit freeze can add another layer of support. It doesn’t affect your credit score and is easy to do by contacting Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. A credit freeze will restrict anyone from accessing your credit report, making it difficult for thieves to open new accounts in your name.

3. Be on the Lookout for Facebook Ad Scams
If you have a Facebook account, you’ve probably noticed an increase in the number of ads you see. While most of them are legitimate, criminals can target Facebook users with fake ads. Clicking on a fake ad can direct you to a website where you enter your credit card information to purchase the item.

Different Facebook ad scams have different results. For some, the item might not exist. In this instance, you won’t receive the item that was promised but the scammer will charge your credit card for the purchase. Other ads can offer “free” products and use fake endorsements by well-known celebrities. This scam can ask for your credit card information to cover the cost of shipping. However, it’s unlikely you’ll receive anything in the mail. 

4. Sign Your Card
Sign the back of your credit card as soon as you get it in the mail. If you lose your card or someone steals it from your wallet, having your signature on the card will protect against fraudulent purchases in-store and online.

Having a PIN is more common with a debit card, but some credit cards may use them, too. To keep yourself safe, never store your PIN in the same place as your card. If your card falls into the wrong hands, you don’t want them to have the PIN as well.

5. Check Your Credit Report Regularly
You can access a free credit report from each of the credit reporting bureaus once a year thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Checking your report from every credit agency is crucial to protect yourself because credit card companies and banks don’t always report to each one.

Keep in mind that you only get one free credit report a year. It’s best to stagger your requests from each agency to get a better look at your activity over time. After pulling your report, check for changes or information you don’t recognize about your name, address, account information, past-due payments and new credit inquiries.

Final Note on Credit Card Safety
Protecting yourself when using a credit card has never been more important. Thieves are crafty, and there’s a new scam that pops up every day. But there are ways you can protect yourself and your account information. Safeguarding your identity using these steps will reduce your chances of becoming a victim of credit card theft online.  

Learn more about how your can protect yourself from credit card theft by contacting a CFP® professional