These days, scammers are using a variety of tactics to obtain users’ credit card information. Below are a few methods they use, as well as tips to avoid them.
Skimming occurs when a thief uses an electronic device called a skimmer to steal your credit card information. Skimmers are made to look like regular card readers, and they snap on top of existing ones at places like ATMs, gas pumps and cashier stations. The only way to truly tell if a skimmer is being used is to gently pull on the card reader. If it doesn’t pop off, odds are good that it’s not a skimmer.
Phishing is when someone obtains your credit card information by disguising an email, message or website as legitimate when it’s actually not. Look for the following signs before clicking a link or typing information:
- Emails asking for sensitive information: Banks will never send emails asking you to respond with passwords or other personal information.
- Misspelled URLs/slightly altered logos: Phishers re-create websites and change elements you might not catch at a glance.
- Nonsecure websites: Only enter sensitive information on a website if its URL begins with https://.
Public Wi-Fi Networks
If you’re using the Internet through a public Wi-Fi connection that doesn’t require a password (like one at a coffee shop or store), you’re probably using an unencrypted network. This makes it possible for someone to see the websites you visit and even the information you type into certain forms, including credit card numbers. To stay safe, use only encrypted networks (those requiring a password) when entering sensitive information.
Spyware is software that gains information about your computer activity without your knowledge by making its way onto your computer when you download harmful software or visit attack pages. The best way to prevent and eliminate spyware is to use antivirus software and avoid clicking links and downloading files you can’t trust.
Even when taking all of these measures, there’s always a risk that your credit card information could still be stolen. It’s a good idea to check your bank account regularly for any unfamiliar or suspicious activity.
Friedman is an instructional designer with GCFLearnFree.org, a program of Goodwill Community Foundation and Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina Inc. For more information, visit https://www.gcflearnfree.org/thenow/