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How to avoid credit card fraud

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As online shopping becomes more popular with savvy consumers around the world, an unwelcome side-business has also increased in activity: credit card fraud.

Credit card fraud is certainly not limited to the online marketplace, however, internet users experience more than their fair share of dodgy transactions every day.

There's no way to completely protect your credit card details when shopping online, but there are plenty of things you can do to minimize your risk.

Your first step towards protecting yourself against credit card fraud is very basic: be especially careful when using your credit card online. Never inputting your credit card details unless you're certain the website is a reputable and trustworthy. Most online check-out systems allow you to pay via third party processors like PayPal, which offers added protection against credit fraudsters, so it would be wise to consider using these wherever possible.

Also, you should not respond to emails that ask you to follow certain links and enter confidential information - even if the site may appear to be a trusted, for example eBay or Amazon. Fraudsters have been successful in developing sophisticated websites and software that looks just like the real thing, so always assume that the link can not be trusted. Instead, shut down the window and open another browser, type in the web address manually, and carry on with your transaction this way.

It's prudent to remember, as well, that emails are not secure, so you should think very carefully before sending credit card information via email.

In saying this, you should keep in mind that the internet can also help you to avoid becoming a victim of credit card. If you regularly check your account balance online - ideally, at least once per week - you can monitor your transactions and, hopefully, identify any unusual purchases early on. When you receive your monthly statement in the mail, you should also consider cross-referencing it with your receipts.

In an offline environment, never let your credit card out of your sight. Skimming - where credit card details are copied, and then duplicated onto new cards - is becoming more and more common, but there are steps you can take to minimize this risk.

If you're in a restaurant, for example, don't hand your card over to the waiter; instead, walk up with him or her to the cashier and hand over your card yourself. If you're in a high-end restaurant and you're embarrassed about transacting this way, apologize and tell the waiter that you've been the victim of credit card fraud in the past, so you prefer not to let your card out of your sight. It's better to be embarrassed for a few minutes, then to find out that thousands of dollars worth of transactions have been illegally charged to your card!

What if your account has been compromised?

Should you think that unauthorised transactions have been charged to your credit card, let your card provider know immediately. They will quickly cancel your card and issue a new one, to prevent any further transactions from going through. Your account will be reimbursed if after investigation and do find that unlawful transactions have occurred.
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