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CREDIT CARD FRAUD

        

Privacy? Few of us stop to think about the trail of personal data we leave behind, but it's a growing concern. Most of it is legitimately asked for, but if it's that easy for companies to acquire, then it's stands to reason it's going to be easy for a criminal determined to commit fraud to access it too.

But this is a worse case scenario...and for the most part preventable.

Chip and pin has cut losses by 13% (1st half of 2007), and you can contact the Direct Marketing Association to remove your name from almost all of the direct mail lists in the UK to help cut out junk mail and thereby your vulnerability to Fraud. However, phone and mail order fraud are increasing. Mostly down to lack of awareness, by guarding your private financial information carefully you can greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of fraud.

There are simple steps to combat the risk of someone taking advantage, so don't loose out and make sure you know the facts!

10 STEPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF

What happened to cash? Increasingly, credit, debit and charge/store cards are the way we choose to pay. The combined value of transactions reaching 470 billion (2005) with plastic spending is set to rise to 639 billion by 2010.

It's convenient, cheap and for the most part, safe; however as more of us use cards to pay for everyday life; in shops, over the phone, online and using chip and pin; so have the incidences of credit card fraud increased.

Credit card fraud costs money, causes frustration, inconvenience and violates people's privacy.

Be aware and stay safe, here are our top 10 tips on avoiding credit card fraud.

1. Personal details Keep them secret!

Personal details are yours; and yours alone. You should never tell other people your passwords or PINs. Avoid writing down any private financial information. If you have difficulty remembering details, change them to something memorable but not something to obvious (i.e. birthdays, as these are easily identifiable)

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2. Don't leave a paper trail

When you need to get rid of documents or receipts don't just chuck them in the bin. Always destroy (preferably shred) anything which contains private and personal financial information.

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3. Get extra protection.

Mastercard and visa offer online protection schemes called SecureCode and Verified. They don't cost you anything, and you simply register online. Your bank may offer a similar scheme too, so ask to see if you could benefit.

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4. Protect your computer.

If you want to guard against online fraud, make sure you have up to date, effective anti-virus and firewall software, so you can protect yourself from things like Trojan viruses which try to capture private information as it's entered on a website.

Use a phishing filter, which will check each website for phishers (who will fraudulently attempt to acquire information like passwords and card details) And to protect yourself from new and emerging threats; make sure you regularly update your virus definitions.

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5. Is that really your bank on the phone?

A bank would never just randomly call and ask for your passwords or personal information. Remember; if they instigated the call don't give up financial information, passwords or PIN numbers over the telephone.

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6. Is that really an email from your bank?

Much like the telephone scam, you may get emails claiming to be from your bank, credit card provider or Paypal for instance. They are known as phishing emails, and they're after personal information. Banks and online payment providers would never send an email asking to do this. Don't just follow a link from an email and divulge personal financial details; type the address of your online banking site directly into your browser and go from there.

And remember to try and use only secure sites look at your browser window for unbroken key or undone padlock symbols, they indicate unsecured pages.

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7. Shopping and cash withdrawals.

You are vulnerable to fraud when using chip and pin too. Use your other hand to shield the keypad from others or the possibility of hidden cameras. Be wary of anyone standing too close behind you when entering your PIN, and never use a cash machine that looks dodgy in any way; it may have been tampered with.

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8. Statements - Keep your eyes peeled.

Your statements are records of how your money is spent. Fraudsters don't just take big amounts of money; they may filter off small amounts so as not to raise suspicion.

Check over your card statements carefully; and file them until you're certain they are not needed. When you come to get rid of them, shred or destroy them.

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9. Play it safe

With incidents of fraud increasing, many of the high street banks now offer insurance.

Identity theft cover protects you if someone steals your identity or uses your name to obtain credit or other services. Ask your bank about what they offer and how cover could benefit you.

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10. So what should you do if your a victim of fraud?

Contact your bank immediately. The sooner you report the fraud the sooner they can help you by cancelling your cards and start processes to return lost funds. Most banks have a 24hour helpline.

See if you can find out how someone was able to steal your identity/money, and make sure you don't make the same slip up again. As long as you have reasonable care to protect yourself, banks are there to help, and will investigate and reimburse you as long as you report an incident as soon as you can and haven't given away personal details etc.

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