This is the time of year for big retail business – both for merchants, and for cybercriminals and fraudsters. As more people pull out their plastic to shop during the next few weeks, studies have shown card fraud spikes by nearly 20 percent
Thankfully, most consumers are well protected from the out-of-pocket cost of card fraud, and are often fully reimbursed if incidents are reported in accordance with their cardholder agreements. But the ultimate cost of fraud is borne by everyone – banks, merchants, and consumers – in the form of annual fees and charges.
And regardless of the cost, having your card details stolen is a real hassle. Many of us have credit cards linked to bill payment services, automatic recurring debits, or online shopping sites. Changing all those entries can be a pain if you have to cancel your cards.
Mako Networks is committed to helping improve the security of card payments in the retail environment. We’ve created a short list below of ways to help keep your cards safe during the holiday shopping season.
- Watch where you shop – In the real world, we take care to not put ourselves in potentially unsafe places; you’d probably think twice before walking down a dark alley at night. Apply that same rationale when it comes to shopping: don’t put your credit card data in a potentially unsafe environment. The fact is that more card fraud happens in online e-commerce transactions than in bricks-and-mortar stores. But if you’re going to shop online, stick to larger well-known retailers, instead of smaller no-name discount websites. And always look for a secure connection in your web browser before entering your credit card details anywhere.
- If you’ve got a chip-and-PIN (EMV) card, use it – Card issuers around the world have started rolling out cards with small microchips built into them that contain encrypted card data. These work differently to normal swipe-type cards, and are far more difficult for fraudsters to crack. In most countries where EMV card are the norm, card fraud has dropped dramatically.
- Watch where you swipe – ‘Skimmers’ are small devices that read your card data as it’s swiped, then record it for fraudsters to use later. Some of the fraudsters’ favorite spots for skimmers are on standalone ATM machines (like those in pubs or convenience stores) or in the card terminal at the checkout in retail stores. Before you swipe (or dip) your card, have a look at the terminal. Does anything look out of place? Is the front fascia loose? Does your card exit the slot smoothly? These clues could all indicate the presence of a skimming device, which should be reported to police.
- Keep your card in plain view – It only takes a second for a fraudster to swipe your card through a handheld skimmer. If you can’t swipe your card yourself, walk to the cash register with the salesperson or server to observe the transaction. Handing over your card is like handing over the keys to your bank account.
- Treat your cards like cash – It’s sometimes easy to forget that the rectangles of plastic we carry in our wallets have real monetary value. This is especially true of debit cards, which link directly to cash in your checking account. Guard your cards carefully, never give out your PIN to anyone, and keep track of how and when they’re used. Vigilance is your best defense.