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How to protect yourself from personal banking fraud

Credit cards are an integral part of personal banking today, but they can leave you open to fraud.

Data breaches at store chains and online retailers generate big headlines and anxiety for personal banking customers because thieves and hackers can use credit card account numbers to make major purchases with other people’s credit accounts, or even to access your personal banking accounts. If your account is affected by the breach, scammers might be spending your money.

But there are ways you can protect yourself and your personal banking accounts against fraud. Although data breaches capture the headlines, most credit card fraud isn’t as exciting. Thieves use a variety of tricks to get your personal banking and credit card information. For example, they can:

  • retrieve account information from your mailbox or garbage
  • steal your card and swipe it through a secondary reader that copies the information from the magnetic stripe
  • implant small devices on gas pumps and other point-of-sale terminals that record your credit card number
  • “phish” for your credit card information with fraudulent emails

Technology to the rescue

Credit card companies in the U.S. are slowly implementing new technology called EMV, in which an electronic identity chip is inserted into a smart card. When you use the card, you enter a personal identification number (PIN) into a terminal, much the same way you do with a debit card, instead of signing a receipt. The data on the chip is virtually impossible to copy, and transactions with chip-based EMV cards are much more secure than with standard, magnetic stripe-type cards.

Other countries where EMV technology has been in use for a number of years report dramatic declines in credit card fraud.

How to protect yourself

Start by protecting your personal and financial information in the following ways:

  • Never share your credit card with anyone, even family members.
  • If you have a smart credit card, cover the keypad when entering the PIN at a retailer or a bank machine.
  • Keep your credit card in sight when you make purchases to prevent skimming or double swiping.
  • Record your personal banking account numbers, credit card numbers, card details and contact information in case of theft or loss. Keep this information in a secure place, not in your wallet or next to the cards themselves.
  • Check your personal banking account and credit card statements every month. Report any errors or unauthorized transactions to your financial institution or credit card company immediately.
  • Keep your banking account and credit card statements in a secure place. Destroy them when you no longer need them.
  • Get written confirmation when you cancel your credit card.
  • Only use your credit card online on sites you trust. Check that the address bar for the site shows a lock symbol, or that the address starts with “https” or a padlock image on the page. This means the information you enter when making a purchase is encrypted and secure.
  • When you do shop online, never do it from a public access Wi-Fi hotspot. Hackers can detect information that you enter through a wireless signal such as Wi-Fi and copy your account data.

 What to do if you are a victim

If you are the victim of banking or credit card fraud, you might be protected by the consumer protection policies of your provider. Check with your card vendor to see which policies are in place. You should also take the following steps:

  • Write down when you noticed the fraud, what you did in response, the names of people you spoke to and the date.
  • File a report with your local police.
  • Contact your credit card company, bank and all companies where your accounts were misused or are at risk of being fraudulently handled. You will not be liable for any charges that take place after you notify your credit card issuer.
  • Check your statements carefully for any charges you don’t recognize, and report them immediately to your credit card issuer.

You can protect yourself from financial fraud. If you’re concerned about your risk of fraud, talk to one of our First Utah Bank representatives for personal banking in Mill Creek Utah.