6 Easy Ways to Keep Your Credit Card Safe

PHOTO: Keep your credit card safe with these 6 easy tips.
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Credit card security has been in the news a lot lately, with high-profile data breaches at several major retailers. To be clear, there is nothing that credit card users could have done to prevent the loss of their credit card data after they used it to make a purchase. Nevertheless, there are several steps that cardholders can take to ensure the security of their credit cards while in their possession.

Handle With Care

While cardholders may toss their keys and their mobile phones into their pockets and purses, it is never a good idea to carry a credit card on its own outside of your wallet. A credit card can easily get misplaced or stolen, yet tends to stay put when resting within a slot in your wallet.

Store Unused Cards Safely

It can be a good idea to have certain credit cards that you don't use every day, such as cards that are for travel or for your use at certain retailers. If that is the case, it is best to leave those cards at home in a safe place. That way, should you lose your wallet or purse, you limit the number of credit cards you need to replace.

Be Careful With Your Mail

Not all credit card theft is high-tech, and one of the most common ways that thieves traditionally target credit card user is by intercepting their mail. If your mail box at home is vulnerable to theft, consider having new cards sent to your office or a Post Office box. Even if mail is rarely stolen in your area, be sure to have your mail held if you are going out of town.

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Dispose of Your Statements Securely

Another way that thieves can gain access to your account is by gleaning information from your statements. These statements can contain credit card data that can be used to steal your identity. In addition, statements and other mailings often contain so-called convenience checks, which are ripe for fraud.

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Be Careful With Social Media

Americans now make more of their lives public than at any time in the past. Too often, this information can be used to fool a credit card issuer into giving access to thieves. Once they have stolen your identity, their next step is to change your address and order new credit cards sent there. If personal information, such as your mother's maiden name, is already out on the Internet, consider changing your security codes to something else.

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Always Check Your Statements ... and Your Credit

As countless retail security breaches have proved, there may never be a way to prevent hackers from acquiring credit card data, but the Fair Credit Billing Act ensures that cardholders do not have to be responsible for unauthorized charges. But there is one catch. Cardholders have to spot the fraudulent charges and report them to their banks. The only way to do so is to go through your credit card statements and consider each charge. Unfortunately, some merchants process their charges under names that their customers might not be familiar with.

It's also a good idea to periodically check your credit reports to make sure there are no new accounts opened in your name without your knowledge. If you see an account that isn't yours, contact the issuer as well as the credit reporting agency that generated the credit report to dispute the account. By monitoring your credit scores regularly, you can also be alerted to potential identity theft if you notice an unexpected drop in your scores. You can check your credit reports for free once a year, and you can monitor your credit scores using free tools on Credit.com.

Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

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