Credit cards can be a phemonenal personal finance tool, but if account information is lost or stolen, they can also cause endless frustration. PrivacyWise™ UK is a reference guide that helps you:
There are two common types of identify crime which criminals can commit, both of which require criminals to obtain personal details to avoid the bank or issuer’s security measures.
Ensuring an account is securely protected starts at the point the account is opened, and must be maintained continuously thereafter.
The easiest way for criminals to gain access to personal information is to retrieve it directly from an individual’s computer. This means it is essential to install and maintain anti-virus and spyware protection software. These tools can be set to check machines automatically, so a computer is always as safe as it can be.
Criminals also regularly find and exploit vulnerabilities in computer programs and applications, so it is also essentially that the latest editions of software are downloaded and installed. Security updates are regularly released in these updates to ‘patch’ weaknesses in software and protect users against new threats.
A simple way to ensure a site is secure is to check for the ‘lock icon’ in the browser. However, although this ensures that data transmitted is SSL protected, it does not show whether the organisation with the SSL is legitimate.
Downloading seemingly innocuous free programs and apps from the internet is a quick way to infect a machine, and although malware and anti-virus software will identify the issue and remedy it at some point, it is safer to only download software from trusted sources. Even then it is worth doing some simple background checks with a couple of searches to ensure others have not written forum posts complaining of issuers with particular websites.
Passwords are perhaps to easiest way for criminals to target users, but when used well they offer a great deal of security. Follow these simple tips to ensure password security;
To access online banking, the bank’s url should be typed directed into the browser bar.
Links included within emails should never be used and browser ‘favourites’, which could be rewritten by malware to redirect to a bogus site, should ideally be avoid too.
Although the methods detailed above should help discourage all but the most determined criminals, it is still worth checking statements thoroughly every month for unusual activity.
It’s also worth checking credit reports annually to ensure only known products and applications are listed.
Most techniques for protecting identity offline are well known and established procedures. However, if they are not followed, then they will leave users at increased vulnerability to attack.
It is a condition of credit card issuers that the ‘Signature Strip’ is signed prior to use, and although the advent of Chip&Pin has relegated it as a method for authentication, it is still used.
Unless a call is self-initiated, it is unwise to provide credit card details over the phone. When transactions are completed over the internet they should be undertaken with reputable merchants, or via an established payment gateway (SagePay, WorldPay, PayPal etc). Ideally online purchases should also trigger the requirement for additional online authentication (Verified by Visa, MasterCard SecureCode, or American Express SafeKey).
Contactless cards should ideally be kept in a metal sleeve to prevent them from being surreptitiously accessed without the user’s knowledge, and should never be carried individually. Multiple cards carried together will confuse a reader and render the signal useless, but an individual card can be read with relative ease.
Always save receipts for every purchase, as they can be very useful in resolving disputes. Once receipts have been matched against a monthly credit card statement they should be shredded, together with other documents which reveal personal information (including name and address), to prevent criminals retrieving them from household waste.