Protecting yourself from identity theft starts the moment you decide to make a purchase. Your actions when stepping up to a cash register to pay can mean the difference between becoming an identity theft victim or having your identity and buying power remain safely in your control. Studies show that consumers are more likely to have their identity stolen by a store employee than by an outsider, so following a few simple rules can ensure your identity’s safety.
First and foremost, try to never let your card leave your possession. If you can choose between handing your credit card over and doing it yourself, choose option two. Most stores allow you to pay at a cash register however there are some shops that take your card and handle the transaction for you, returning with your card and a receipt to sign. Restaurants mostly bring your check and take your card into the back as well. Try to have the store merchant or waiter bring the credit card machine to you if possible. More and more restaurants and department stores are creating portable credit card machines that allow you to charge your card yourself. These machines were created for the sole purpose of avoiding identity theft.
If you must hand your credit card to a merchant or waiter, try to make it quick. The less time your card is out of your possession the less likely it is your identity will be stolen. For example, handing your card over to a bartender until you are ready to pay is a great opportunity for your credit card number to be stolen. Pay for each order one at a time so that you can keep track of your card.
Another simple way to avoid credit card fraud is by leaving a tip in cash. If you are tipping, it is easy for a waiter or bartender to change the tip amount when entering it into the computer system. Making it a practice of leaving tips only in cash will ensure it comes to your attention if any tip was fraudulently placed on your card.
Yet another great idea is to designate your cards for specific uses. Just about every checking account holder gets a bank card that acts as a debit card. When using your bank card, the money comes directly out of your account. Then you can have a separate credit card or two. Designate which card your family can use for what purposes. For instance, you can make a rule that the bank or debit card only be used for family expenses such as groceries, meals, and clothes. Meanwhile, a separate credit card can be used for travel, or certain major purchases or automobile expenses. If you maintain strict rules about which card is used for which purchases, there will never be confusion about items on your card or bank statements that you receive.
Lastly, if you think an ATM machine or credit card machine looks suspicious do not use it. Fraud can take place at ATM machines or credit card machines by devices that read the data on the magnetic strip of your card. Identity theft can easily happen at machines that are not monitored by video cameras, so if your gut tells you not to use a certain machine, follow your instincts and wait to withdraw your money. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
If you have been the victim of credit card fraud or identity theft and need to advice or assistance of counsel, check out our Identity Theft Kit and contact SmithMarco P.C. for a completely free case review.