Keep your guard up when you’re swiping your card

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Take a look at the ins and outs of swiping:

1. Zip code or Phone number?

It is standard when you are asked to give a zip code when you use your card. And it’s one of the ways merchants, banks and credit card issuers trying to make sure that’s really you making a purchase without a personal identification number.

The zip code helps verify your identity as thieves, who steal enough digital information to make a fake credit card, probably don’t know where the card owner lives.

There are other pieces of personal information collected at cash registers that you aren’t obliged to give freely.

Most probably the retailer asking for your phone number wants it so the store can send you special offers. The same is true with your email address. You have the right to ask what the information will be used for and whether the retailer shares phone numbers or email addresses. Think about whether to provide the data.

2. No reliable defense against fraud

Lots of shoppers feel safer using debit cards as credit cards avoiding using PINs in full view of anyone who might be interested.

That is actually a bypass of a security measure, although it could afford some additional safeguards for shoppers.

In instances where you enter a zip code instead of PIN, savvy enough thieves could steal the numbers they need all the same.

3. Protection difference between credit and debit

Even if you use your debit card as a credit card, the money still comes out of your bank account and you’re not provided with the extra protection that standard credit cards offer.

Those measures can include: refunds on faulty merchandise, caps on charges if the card hijacked, takes of a disputed amount off the account. These measures are put into action as soon as your credit card company knows what happened.

With debit cards everything’s little bit different. There’s also a question of how much money you’ll lose. You can find yourself responsible for higher amounts.

With banks, you’ll get your money back but after an investigation by the bank. Account holders must also report the fraud within 60 days of receiving statements.

4. Aware means protected

A good way to protect your money is to watch where it’s going.

You should know not only where your cards are at all times but you should also consider keeping continual tabs on account levels. Mobile technology makes simpler.

Today, most banks allow users to peek at checking account balances and transactions from their phones. Account holders can also set up email or text alerts to let them know when there is a cash drive. You can set up alerts to notify you of transactions that exceed a certain amount or you can get a message about every purchase.

5. Your step should be the first

Your bank and credit card company have valid reasons to call or email you. And you also have valid reasons to share personal information with those institutions.

But it’s always a better idea to keep that information close to the vest. There’s nothing wrong with asking whether you can call back. Online, consumers can go to the bank or company website for contact information, rather than replying to emails.

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