Credit card plays a big role in our daily shopping.
But crimes like data breaches make us worry about how to protect our private information.
The Identity Theft Resource Center reported a 29% jump in data breaches in the U.S. in the first of 2017.
Recently, experts in cyber warfare/terrorism and critical infrastructure protection at San Diego State University provide six advices to protect your credit card:
Freeze your credit
California law allows you to place a legally binding “security freeze” at each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion).
This freeze is like a firewall for your credit file and prevents anyone from opening or obtaining your information (including yourself).
A criminal armed with your SSN would meet resistance when the bank or financial institution attempts to look up your credit worthiness.
The protection is automatically restored after the thaw period that you define.
Beware credit locks
Credit agencies will try to sell customers on better protection afforded by their ‘lock’ or ‘monitoring’ services, for a monthly fee.
The security freeze actually prevents them from using your credit, so it’s much stronger than a monitoring service.
A security freeze is your best friend in the face of ever-present personal data breaches.
Skip the strip
The magnetic strip encoded on the back of your credit card is 1970s technology and easily cloned by “skimmers,” palm-sized devices that swipe the information from your credit card’s magnetic strip and resell that information to criminals.
Thanks to recent regulations, banks now issue cards with embedded microchips that allow for more secure in-store payment, but adoption among vendors has been slow.
Ask your bank if they offer “chip-only” cards like those used in Europe. Andrés says you that “if you’re brave, you can try to peel off your magnetic strip using a craft knife.”
Use Apple Pay
At online stores and brick-and-mortar stores that offer it, ApplePay is a better security.
Since the ApplePay system only sends a random, temporary, one-time credit card number to the vendor — done through a “tokenization” process — any breach at that vendor will not have an effect on your account.
Similar payment systems are available from Android, Samsung, PayPal, and Zelle, a consortium of banks, with varying degrees of security.
Try refillable debit cards
One low-tech way to insulate yourself from skimmers and scammers is to pick up a few refillable debit cards at your local convenience store.
Dedicate one for restaurant outings, another for clothing and gifts. They are easy to use and to replace.
Many people think that in-store purchases are more secure than those done online, but an unscrupulous store clerk can use a “skimmer” to take information from your credit card’s magnetic strip.
That data is then sold and your card number imprinted on newly minted plastic in other parts of the world.
These devices can also be found in some gas pumps and ATMs, stealing your information right off the back of the card.
While online you avoid the possibility of skimmers, but you have the danger of poorly secured websites that may store your credit card and 3- or 4-digit verification code even though it is against payment industry best practices.
So the truth is that no matter where you shop, “buyer beware” is still the best advice.