Protect yourself - credit card riskBy now, most people understand that credit cards are safer to keep on their person than cash. Even my 82-year-old uncle prefers to use a credit card to pay for things now. But credit cards (and their cousin the debit card) have their own set of issues. My uncle was surprised to learn that if somebody steals his credit card, he may still be liable for the charge! So take a few minutes and review the reminders below to take reasonable precautions of protecting you (and your money).

It is important to know that criminals would love to steal any information about you they can find, including your name, your account number and the expiration date and verification code of the credit card. All those pieces of information are printed on credit cards. All but the verification code are contained as machine-readable data on the magnetic stripe. So the physical security of the card is important.

If your card is stolen, you must report this fact within 24 hours. If you don’t, you may be liable for the charges. Generally, the extent of your liability is $50, but only if you report theft quickly, such as within 2 business days. If it takes longer to notify the bank of the card theft, your liability may increase to $500 or more.

Never give out your payment card number in response to an unsolicited email, text message or phone call, no matter who asks for it. Criminals like to create a sense of urgency in their fraudulent attempts to get access to your account information. And be alert to unscrupulous people who may swipe your card through two devices. Some criminals have been known to attempt this posing as an employee at a restaurant or retail shops. Watch that process to the extent possible and monitor the transaction later via your online banking system.

Check your bank statements and credit card bills regularly. If you can access your accounts online, your transactions can be monitored as often as you want, perhaps daily, to make sure that charges made to your account are valid. Regular and frequent monitoring will expose fraudulent transactions well within the time-frame to reduce your personal liability.

Check your credit report at least once a year. You are entitled to at least one free credit report every 12 months from each of the major reporting bureaus. The official free annual credit report site is Your credit report will summarize your credit history and will list all open credit cards or other debts associated with your name and tax identification number. Reviewing these reports will ensure there are no “other” fraudulent debts.

We understand that today’s threats to financial security can cause anxiety, and we want to help. It takes both of us in the fight to protect your data against threats. We strive to do our part by constantly monitoring our own computers and we spend a lot of money to provide good tools for customers to monitor their money online. Talk to a friendly banker at Peoples Bank to learn about online banking and its advantages for keeping track of account activity. Diligence often makes the difference in warding off the effects of fraudulent transactions.

For more information about protecting your financial matters, check out the Peoples Bank “online security” blog posts. The FDIC posts consumer news with specific resources and links, too. Read the FDIC’s Spring 2013 Consumer Newsletter.