What is online credit card fraud and how can I protect myself?

Did you know that in 2018 more than a quarter of fraud took place online and 27% of victims don’t know how the fraudster got their details?

If you become a victim of online credit card fraud, it can wreak havoc on your personal finances, and so it is important to understand exactly how you might be tricked into online credit card fraud and the ways to lower your risk.


How can online credit card fraud occur?

Online fraudulent credit card activity can happen in a variety of ways but during the months of November, December and January, when credit card payments reach their highest levels, one of the most popular methods is via phishing attacks. This is where you receive an email containing a fake deal or offer and put your credit card details in to pay for a product that is not legitimate. However, anyone with a credit card is a potential target for fraudsters and as wary and cautious as you might be, it’s easier than you think to be taken in by sophisticated scams.

As well as phishing, online credit card fraud can take many other forms including:

  • ‘Card-not-present’ fraud – which can occur online, by fax or phone using stolen card details. This is where the basic information, such as the credit card number and cardholder’s name, are taken to be used for online purchases but the physical card stays with the owner


  • Fake online banking websites designed to mimic banks’ official sites, known as ‘pharming


  • Fraudulent apps that managed to get you to enter your name, birth date, and other personal information, so that the criminal can apply for new credit card in your name

Because online credit card fraud can happen at any time, even when your card is still safely in your wallet, it’s important to monitor all your credit card accounts regularly.


How can you protect yourself?

Although it’s impossible to completely eliminate the chance you’ll ever fall victim to credit card fraud, there are steps you can take today to reduce your risks, including:

  • Don’t write down your passwords, login details and PINs


  • Always log out after shopping and save the confirmation email as a record of your purchase


  • Don’t disclose PINs, login details or passwords in response to unsolicited emails claiming to be from your bank, the card companies or the police


  • Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed and your mobile has the latest software update


  • Shop at secure websites by ensuring that the security icon (locked padlock or unbroken key symbol) is showing in your browser window


  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi for transactions. It’s much safer to use connections at home or data on your phone.


What should I do if I notice online credit card fraud on my account?

If you discover unauthorized charges on your credit card account, you should:

Immediately contact the credit card company

As soon as you notice a payment that you did not make on your credit card, ring your credit card issuer to report the fraud and if the card is no longer in your possession cancel it altogether. Many have zero-liability policies, meaning you won’t be responsible for any fraudulent charges made on your accounts. Victims of unauthorized payment card fraud are legally protected against losses. Industry analysis indicates that banks and card companies refund customers in over 98% of cases.

Change your online passwords and PINs to prevent fraudsters from doing any further damage

If you have mobile or online banking most leading banks will allow you to change your PIN by entering your password and date of birth into an online form. If you bank with a mobile-only provider you will also have the option to prevent your card being used at ATMs, and to freeze the card altogether.

In the meantime, it is advisable to closely monitor any activity on your account, so that you can see how many attempts have been made to withdraw money, in case you decide to report the fraud to the police.

If you do notice fraud on your credit card, don’t panic, you’re not alone. If you need help you can get fraud victim assistance from multiple sources, including your bank, credit card issuer and credit bureaus. Remember to remain vigilant when using your card and to keep monitoring your bank account statements to have the best chance to stop the fraudster early.


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