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The ins and outs of protecting your identity when using a credit card

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According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 393,000 of the nearly 1.4 million identity theft cases reported in 2020 involved credit card fraud. This happens in restaurants, gas stations, on smartphones and via the WiFi of cafes. Some criminals make purchases that the cardholder never has to pay for. Others open accounts using the identities of their victims, looting and looting on their behalf, and leaving their credit in smoldering ruins along the way.

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The good news is that the power to prevent all of this is in your hands.

“Whether you use credit cards in person or online, taking a few simple precautions can help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.” said Laura Adams, MBA, personal finance expert for

Here’s what to do – and what not to do – to keep you and your personal data safe when using a credit card.

Read: Top things to consider before applying for a new credit card

Buy only on private and secure connections

You know your home’s Wi-Fi is secure because you have it secured. Hopefully guests should ask you for a password if they want to join your network. According to Norton, there’s no way to be sure a public network is secure, so you should always assume that the one you’re using while you’re on the road isn’t.

“Since someone could steal your card data over a public wifi connection, buy only using your own device and a private connection,” Adams said.

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Simply browsing a public and / or unsecured network is one thing, but never make a credit card transaction after joining a Wi-Fi network in places such as:

Cover your tracks with a VPN

If you absolutely have to make a purchase over an unknown Wi-Fi network, use a virtual private network (VPN) to keep your transactions hidden. VPNs redirect your internet traffic through a secure pipeline and hide your IP address. This type of cover-up can go a long way in protecting your card from the so-called man-in-the-middle attacks that Norton claims so many victims on public Wi-Fi networks.

Keep reading: 30 things you do that can ruin your credit score

“A VPN, in my opinion, is essential for accessing public wifi from Starbucks or while traveling,” said Paul Knag, founder of the consumer finance site. “This advice also applies to your smartphone or iPad, not just the computer.”

Even when you’re on a secure and trusted network, covering your tracks with a VPN is never a bad idea – unless, of course, your streaming service blocks you until you turn it off.

“I recommend using a VPN at home and in the office,” Knag said.

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Pay with a digital wallet

Just as VPNs hide IP addresses, digital wallets hide credit card numbers, adding an extra layer of security to online transactions.

“Third party digital wallets, such as Google Pay and Apple Pay, give you more protection because they symbolize your data, which means your credit card data is not revealed to merchants, ”Adams said.

According to Captial One, mobile payment services like PayPal, Zelle, and Venmo use similar technology to protect your card.

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Two-factor authentication is a problem – for criminals

You may not like to go through the extra step of entering a code sent via text message just to complete a purchase. But that extra layer of protection keeps your accounts safe by making sure you’re the person on the other end of this transaction.

“Many credit cards or apps offer two-factor authentication, which requires a second step, such as a text or email, to log into your account,” Adams said. “If a thief got your login details, authentication would prevent them from accessing your account. “

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Create account alerts

When you put a physical debit card in an ATM and enter a password, it’s kind of two-factor authentication, according to Credit Karma – you’re authenticating your identity by providing both something you have (the card) and something you know (the password).

Anytime there’s a transaction that doesn’t include that second factor of authentication – a physical card – ask your bank to let you know.

“Most credit cards allow you to create text or email alerts for transactions that occur without your card present, such as online purchases,” Adams said. “It can help you know when someone is using your credit card without your permission and report it immediately to the issuer.”

Discover: 10 credit score myths you need to stop believing

Review your transactions

Finally, remember that while everything with your credit card is automated, you are still ultimately responsible for tracking your purchases – and sometimes the most effective security measures are also the most basic. Do what your parents did. View your statement at the end of each billing cycle.

“While it may be impossible to completely prevent card fraud, the sooner you spot it, the easier it is to fix,” Adams said. “Always check your card account or statement for any unauthorized transaction and immediately dispute fraudulent charges. “

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Last updated: October 6, 2021

This article originally appeared on The ins and outs of protecting your identity when using a credit card

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