Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Protect Yourself From Credit Card

By now, most savvy credit card users know to carefully review their bill each month for any unauthorized charges. Scrutinizing you credit card statement for unusual activity can alert you to the activities of fraudsters who have improperly gotten hold of your account information, since even the most careful consumers may have their financial information stolen.

One way thieves are trying to sneak unauthorized charges past credit card users is through the use of smaller transactions. Realizing that major charges will jump out when cardholders examine their credit card bill, thieves hope that lesser amounts (particularly when they appear on lengthy statements) will sneak past the eyes of watchful consumers.

A single thief may place these small unauthorized charges, which some people have labeled "spam charges," on the credit cards of hundreds of different people. While a single major charge in the hundreds of dollars may stand out on a credit card bill, consumers may simply be able to write off a smaller transaction, perhaps deciding it was something a spouse or another family member put on the card.

To prevent spam charges, consumers should take all the usual precautions, including only shopping online at secure websites that begin their addresses with "https" as opposed to "http." When using Microsoft's Internet Explorer, users should look for a small yellow padlock icon in a shaded bar near the bottom of the screen. By double clicking on the padlock, surfers will bring up the site's security certificate, which they should check to make sure it hasn't expired and that the name on the certificate matches the name of the company the purchase is being made from.

Additionally, some experts recommend having one credit card that is used only for online shopping, instead of paying with all your different credit cards on the Internet. When shopping for a credit card for online use, consider the range of options available at, such as low interest, rewards, and cash back credit cards. By using just one card online, consumers will be able to make easily keep track of spending and notice any unusual transactions.

Separately, Internet users can secure their home computers against viruses or by using a spyware detector such as Ad-Aware or SpyBot, which both offer free downloads.

If consumers discover unauthorized charges on their credit card statements, they should be sure to inform their card issuer. Cardholders are not responsible for unauthorized charges -- provided they are promptly brought to the attention of the credit card company.

While it may not be clear how thieves gained access to credit card information, that does not mean consumers should stop using their plastic when buying items online. Credit cards often are a better choice for Web purchases than other payment methods since they provide legal rights, including the ability to dispute payments. Certain credit cards also offer protection such as insurance or extended warranties.

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