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While checking your bank account statement, you notice something strange.  You call your bank and discover that some phony used your card for purchases that you would never make. Unfortunately, this is a familiar scenario to many of us. My card was used to buy a collection of Barbeque cookbooks (an odd purchase for a vegetarian). In my coworker’s case, his card was used at various dating websites. He and his wife were not amused by that experience.

Hopefully, new technology will make this fraud more difficult in the future. However, for now it’s up to us as consumers to be vigilant in the case of credit card security. Here are some of the most common ways that credit card information is stolen, and the best methods to prevent this from happening:

Skimming

A skimmer is an electronic device that collects your card information by reading your card’s magnetic strip. Skimmers can be hidden on ATMs, gas pumps, or even used by a waiter/waitress on the sly.

What you should do:

  • Look for anything out of place around ATM machines and gas pumps. Watch for suspicious behavior when making purchases.
  • Download your bank’s mobile app and get in the habit of checking your bank account often. Then, if fraud occurs you can report it immediately.

Phishing

Phishing is when scammers attempt to trick you by sending a fake, but convincing, email or phone call. Some will even have imitation email addresses and logos set up to make the email look legitimate.

Here are a couple red flags:

  • Emails that don’t address you by name, for example, “Dear Colleague”.
  • Emails with many typos and misspellings.

What you should do:

  • Any email or call asking for sensitive information should be regarded with intense scrutiny; never share your bank account or social security numbers.
  • If you’re concerned about whether the call/email is legitimate, directly call the business from a number you know is trustworthy.
  • Look closely at the sender’s email address.
  • Do a quick Internet search to see if anyone else has reported a similar email or call, indicating that it may be a scam.

Hacking

There are a number of ways that hackers can gain access to your computer or mobile device. They could trick you into installing malicious software, figure out a weak password, or glean your information while you use public Wi-Fi.

What you should do:

  • Download with caution. Never download attachments from suspicious emails, and always get software from reputable sources.
  • Use strong passwords, or better yet, two factor authentication.
  • Always keep your Operating System and Antivirus software up-to-date.

Now that you know what to look for, be skeptical and use common sense when dealing with suspicious activity. And, as always, if you’re uncertain about something don’t hesitate to contact the Helpdesk; we’ll be happy to help you!