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How to Keep Your Credit and Debit Cards Safe From Fraud

While making transactions with a credit or debit card is convenient and generally safer than carrying cash, it’s still important to take precautions to avoid card fraud. Check out our tips below to stay safe while shopping, at the ATM, and everywhere in between.

Use a Chip Card 

Over the past few years, credit and debit card providers have made the transition to chip cards. A chip card (also known as EMV or Europay, Mastercard and Visa) helps reduce the risk presented by a magnetic stripe card. EMV cards use encryption that makes it very difficult for fraudsters to clone your card or even gather card information to use online.

Use Card Management Services

Many financial institutions, including Service Credit Union, offer card management services in online and mobile banking. These services include the ability to deactivate, reactivate and put your card on hold. You can also create text alerts for transaction types, transaction locations and more, so you can immediately take action on any suspicious activity.

Beware of Skimmers 

Skimmers are card readers used by fraudsters in an effort to intercept your card information during a transaction. When you use your debit or credit card, this will read what information it can in an attempt to use the card later. 

Skimmers can often be detected physically or visually. A prime example of this is security tape (typically red) used at gas stations. If the tape shows the word “void” on it or is cut, report it to the gas station attendant and pay inside for your gas, as this can indicate the presence of a skimmer. Other card skimmers may be placed over a card reader. These physical attachments may cover arrows on a card reader or may appear crooked or loose. If you can move around the reader easily, do not use it. 

When you discover a potential skimmer, you should notify the business of the issue so they can handle it accordingly. If you have already run your card on a skimmer, please check your online banking portal and confirm if your transactions are all legitimate. You can also use your card management portal in online banking to disable the card in question.

Create a Complex PIN

When you are creating a PIN number for your debit card, complexity is key. Many PIN numbers are not advised as they are simple patterns for fraudsters to guess. This includes examples like repeating numbers (1111, 2222), sequential numbers (1234, 4321), or patterns on a PIN pad such as a vertical set of numbers (2580). Other potential easy PIN numbers to guess are numbers with importance to the cardholder. If a fraudster knows whose card they have, they may be able to find birthdays of that person and their family or other important dates (anniversaries, etc.) online via social media. 

Card security extends to your digital life as well, as some websites and apps may retain entered information. When making a transaction online, double-check the web address to ensure it is spelled correctly. If you are following a link in an application and it opens its own browser in an app (Facebook, TikTok, and others do this) copy the link and open it in a formal web browser (Chrome, Safari, etc.). Before entering any card information, confirm that the web address starts with https://. This is a secure URL that encrypts data going in both directions.

Use a Digital Wallet

Digital wallets are a great resource for transactions. A digital wallet can take many forms, but the most common ones are Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Samsung Pay. These platforms allow you to load your debit and credit cards for online and in-person payments. This means that you can make payments in an application on your phone with ease, or use the wireless tap payment on your smartphone or smartwatch in stores where available. These digital wallets also encrypt your card data so it is more difficult for fraudsters to replicate your info. They also require phone user authorization to activate for a payment, typically a biometric scan or a phone passcode.

Simple Security Tips, Summarized

  • Use a chip card whenever possible 
  • Create transaction notifications in your online banking portal 
  • Use Service Credit Union ATMs when possible 
  • Look carefully at card readers before inserting your card 
  • If you think a skimmer is on a card reader, wiggle it around 
  • Report any suspected skimmers to the business hosting the ATM or card reader 
  • If you suspect your card has been compromised, use our card management platform to disable it 
  • Use complex PIN numbers for your debit card 
  • Use a digital wallet on your smartphone 

Want more tips for keeping your financial info safe? Visit our Security Center.