If you swipe those credit and debit cards as often as I do, you probably worry about credit card fraud—especially with news of major security breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus this past holiday season. Although it’s not always possible to prevent credit card fraud, there are ways to lower your risk and help protect yourself. If you’ve been following the news and are worried about the potential for credit card fraud, check out these 6 tips to help protect yourself.

1. Switch from debit to credit cards

 If you tend to reach for your debit card when you’re at the register, consider switching to a credit card. Generally speaking, credit cards offer far more aggressive fraud protection than debit cards do. In fact, all four of the major credit card companies in the U.S have a zero liability policy, meaning that you won’t have to pay a cent for any unauthorized charges. Credit card companies are also much more lenient when it comes to reporting fraud. Most credit cards allow 90 days for victims to report unauthorized transactions on their account versus just 2 days with most debit cards. If you miss that 2 day window, you could be on the hook for as much as $500! And since debit cards are linked directly to your bank account, fraud can often result in headaches such as zero access to cash while you wait for the bank to investigate. Another perk to using a credit card for your everyday purchases? You’ll quickly rack up those rewards points that most cards offer and earn yourself a few gift cards, airline miles or even cash back!

 2. Sign up for text or email alerts when you use your card

Although I try to be diligent about checking my bank account every day, some days I’m just too busy to remember…or maybe just too lazy! Either way, failing to monitor your account constantly can create the potential to miss unauthorized transactions. If you’re not particularly good about logging into your bank account on a regular basis, consider signing up for email or text alerts when your card is used. Many banks such as Wells Fargo and Chase offer customers the ability to set up alerts if your card is used out of state, when a purchase is declined, or when a purchase exceeds a specified amount. Opting in for one of these simple services can help you easily keep tabs on when and where your card is being used.

3. Credit monitoring

If you’re willing to shell out $10-$25 a month for added piece of mind, consider using a credit monitoring service. There are numerous services out there, but they all work in generally the same way. The credit monitoring company watches all information that is reported to the three credit bureaus and will alert you immediately if they spot any inconsistencies or anything that looks questionable. Many of these services will also alert you when there are new inquiries on your credit, new accounts opened in your name, or any changes in information, such as addresses. Some services, such as Lifelock, take monitoring even further, offering services such as 24/7 access to service reps, access to your credit reports and scores, and up to $1 million in professional recovery assistance should you be the victim of identity theft.

4. Carry your credit cards separately from your wallet

It may sound like a pain, but by carrying your go-to card in a pouch or compartment that’s separate from your wallet could make a big difference when it comes to theft. After all, thieves are tricky, and many cases of theft are due to wallets being stolen right out of purses when victims aren’t looking. If you keep the debit or credit card that you use for daily purchases in a separate area, you’ve protected yourself from credit card fraud if your wallet is ever stolen or lost.

5. Stagger your credit reports

Most people know that they get a free copy of their credit report each year, thanks to The Fair Credit Reporting Act, but many people aren’t aware of the fact that you actually get 3 free credit reports each year—one from each of the 3 major companies. Although you may be tempted to view all 3 at once, many experts recommend that you stagger the reports throughout the year so that you’re able to view one of your credit reports every 4 months. By doing so, you’ll be able to garner an accurate snapshot of your credit throughout the year. To get your free credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com.

6. Encrypt your wi-fi 

One of the easiest, but often forgotten ways to protect yourself from fraud is to simply encrypt your wi-fi. To ensure that your wi-fi is encrypted, simply turn on the WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) on your router and keep a difficult password on your network. Although many of us often make all of our passwords the same word or choose something that we will easily remember (1234, anyone?), doing so can leave you more vulnerable to attacks. When not at home, be cautious about public wi-fi, and try to avoid logging onto sites that host personal information, such as your bank. If you are shopping online, try to wait until you get home, as difficult as it may be, to make your purchases!

 

 

For similar articles read:

Don’t Panic: How to Avoid Losing Big if Your Wallet Is Stolen

When to Use Debit Cards vs. Credit Cards

 

Protect Youself from a Security Breach with These 6 Simple Tips