Diary of a CFP® Pro: December — It’s Holiday Time! Of course, you want to shower your loved one with gifts — but be mindful. How to Protect Your Credit Cards Online

This month’s insight from Marguerita Cheng, CFP® Pro: Credit card theft is on the rise, and improvements in technology make it easier for your information ends up in the wrong hands. The Identity Theft Resource Center saw a 126 percent increase in exposed personally identifiable consumer information records in 2018.

Reality check:  With so much risk, how can you prevent credit card theft online? If you use credit cards to make purchases, it is essential to understand how to use them safely when shopping online. Here are the best tips for protecting yourself when using a credit card.

  • 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 an accurate 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. Ensure 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.
  • Photo by fonalité, flickr.com creative commons

    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 unauthorized activity. If you’ve already been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, a credit freeze can add another support layer. 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.

  • 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 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 promised item, 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.
  • 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 familiar with debit cards, but some credit cards may also use them. 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.
  • Check Your Credit Report Regularly: You can access a free credit report from each credit reporting bureau 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 better look at your activity over time. After pulling your message, check for changes or information you don’t recognize about your name, address, account information, past-due payments, and new credit inquiries.

The bottom line: Protect yourself when using a credit card, because thieves are crafty, and new scams pop 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.

Resourcehttps://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action (Authorized by Federal law, this is the only source for your free credit reports.)

Photo by Matthew Paulson, flickr.com creative commons (top) and fonalité, flickr.com creative commons (center)

Thank you so much for checking out Diary of a CFP® Pro! Click here to learn more about Marguerita Cheng.

About Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP® Pro: Rita is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Blue Ocean Global Wealth.  She has also been a spokesperson for the AARP Financial Freedom Campaign and a regular columnist for Investopedia & Kiplinger. Previously, she was a Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial and an analyst and editor at Towa Securities in Tokyo, Japan.

Certifications: CFP® professional, Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM, Retirement Income Certified Professional®, and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. As a Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) Ambassador, Marguerita helps educate the public, policymakers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning. She serves as a Women’s Initiative (WIN) Advocate and subject matter expert for CFP Board, contributing to the development of examination questions for the CFP® Certification Examination.

Awards: Ameriprise Financial Presidential Award for Quality of Advice and the prestigious Japanese Monbukagakusho Scholarship. In 2017, she was named the #3 Most Influential Financial Advisor in the Investopedia Top 100, a Woman to Watch by InvestmentNews, and a Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise (MBE®) by the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC).

Rita volunteers for several organizations: CFP Board Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (DEC) hearings, she has also served on the Financial Planning Association (FPA) National Board of Directors from 2013-2015 and is a past president of the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area (FPA NCA).

Click here to learn more about Blue Ocean Global Wealth and here to email Marguerita!

Blue Ocean Global Wealth headquarters:

9841 Washingtonian Blvd., #200
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
301.502.5306 / 888.731.3117 (fax)