With the rises in technological development, data breaches and credit card fraud are more prevalent than ever. In fact, reports suggest that such cases are the most pervasive form of identity theft, with over 14 million credit card numbers being exposed in 2017. Anyone's payment card data can be compromised, no matter how careful you are, but it's important to familiarise yourself with the ways you can reduce the risks. For example, having the same password for everything will increase the likelihood of someone hacking into your sensitive information (especially if the password is 'password123').
It's essential that you take appropriate measures to control this risk, including understanding the signs and having a plan of action if you spot anything suspicious.
What are the signs that your payment card data has been compromised?
There are several 'red flags' that you should always be on the lookout for to ensure your payment card data hasn't been compromised. For example:
- You notice strange purchases: Keeping an eye on your purchases is easier than ever, with most bank statements available on your phone or computer via banking apps. It's important to check the list of transactions and ensure they're familiar.
- You notice small charges on your account: This one is slightly more difficult to monitor, but it's an important sign to be aware of. When a data thief gets access to card information, they often start by making small charges that won't trigger any red flags. It's easy to miss small charges, even when checking your bank account regularly. Security analysists suggest setting up text message or email alerts for every transaction. This might seem excessive, but it's an effective way of monitoring your payments and protecting your card data.
- You notice unfamiliar company names on your statement: Bank account statements usually include the name of the business' parent company, so you should always look out for any titles you don't recognise.
- You see payments in other locations: This is quite a simple and easy way to check out unfamiliar transactions on your statement. Unless you travel regularly, most of the payments appearing on your card will be in the same location. If you've been charged for salsa lessons in Dubai, even though you've never been there and hate dancing, there's a strong chance someone has stolen your data.
- Your available credit balance has reduced: Many people don't check their pending charges when they notice a lower available credit balance. Sometimes payments take a while to process, so if you identify a significant reduction, you should alert your credit card company straight away.
What happens if you ignore these signs?
If you are a cardholder and you ignore these signs, the identity theft will continue and more and more money will be stolen from your account. Sometimes banks can reimburse the stolen funds, especially if the criminal is caught and prosecuted. However, if your card payment data is compromised for a significant period of time with no investigation, the person responsible can do even more damage. This includes hacking into other people's card data, as well as opening up new bank accounts in your name. You're far less likely to receive compensation if you don't act fast and alert your credit or debit card company as soon as you notice any red flags.
What you should do if you suspect problems?
If you are a cardholder and you suspect that your card payment data has been compromised, the first thing you should do is cancel your card. You can do this by calling your bank or card issuer and requesting a new credit or debit card. You'll also need to change the PIN on the account if a debit card was involved. You should then alert your bank to the purchases you didn't make yourself. You have 60 days to report unauthorised transactions from the time you receive your statement, so it's important to act fast. You should also change the passwords on all your accounts for extra security.