When you think of bankruptcy, do you think of people who've suffered from medical emergencies? Do you envision a bankruptcy court that's filled with individuals who've been irresponsible with their money?
If that sounds familiar to you, then it's time to open up your mind to another cause of bankruptcy: credit card fraud. Recent statistics have indicated that credit card fraud costs American consumers an average of $500 million per year. Although lenders are careful to help those who've been subjected to identity theft to get their money back, there's no denying that having the contents of your bank account stolen can turn your financial world upside down.
As credit card fraudsters use advanced online technology to get their hands on passwords, PIN numbers and security codes, consumers need to be even more vigilant than ever before if they want to avoid bankruptcy. So if you're ready to stop credit card fraud in its tracks, here are a few easy steps to help you protect your money:
- Don't ever give out any of your bank details online, even if it appears to be from a reputable bank or credit card company. Scammers have become quite adept at making eerily realistic banking emails and websites to lure in unsuspecting victims. The only exception to this rule is if you initiated the contact.
- Hackers still rely on emails to ensnare consumers into divulging their financial information. If you receive information from someone you don't know, be sure to immediately delete it. If you've accidentally opened up an email that looks suspicious, do NOT click on any links. Hackers install viruses on your computer once you've clicked on the link, and these viruses record any information you put into your computer afterwards. Speaking of which...
- Install a top-notch anti-virus program onto your computer. These nifty programs can point out any websites that appear to be fake.
- Don't write down your credit card PIN number - it's just a crime waiting to happen. Memorize it, or have your PIN correspond with a number that's easy to remember. Make sure it's not your birthday - that's too obvious.
- Take advantage of your credit card company's fraud assistance programs. For example, your lender can put a stop on all purchases should your card be used for a purchase that doesn't fit in with your transaction history.
As always, keep your guard up and use your plastic wisely to stop credit card fraud in its tracks - and to stay out of the bankruptcy courts.