Keeping your credit safe
Credit card, ATM (automatic teller machine) and internet fraud is a growing problem. And while it can be difficult to keep track of all the latest credit card frauds, if you know how to protect yourself, you will be able to take back control of your finances.
First and foremost, always act promptly if any of your cards are lost or stolen - most thieves use stolen credit cards within 48 hours. Urgent action could minimise any loss.
Regularly check your statements – both print and online, to ensure that all the transactions are actually yours. If you notice any problems, contact your credit provider immediately.
Credit cards can be like a blank cheque, so be careful about how and when you use them. Never lend them to anyone, and never leave your cards or receipts lying around. Taking a few simple precautions can save you from being a victim of credit card fraud or theft.
- Keep your cards in a safe place – and check regularly that you still have them.
- Store your card numbers and phone number of the credit provider in a safe place – not in your wallet. You may need these details if the card is lost or stolen.
- Don’t keep a written record of your PIN (personal identification number).
- Don’t give your credit card account details over the phone unless the organisation is reputable - and the call was initiated by you.
- Always compare your receipts to your monthly statements. Errors must be reported immediately or you may be liable for the disputed amount.
- Carry only the cards you need, especially when travelling. Ensure that what you leave behind is secure.
- Avoid letting your card out of your sight. Card details can be electronically copied (known as skimming) by criminals working in retail or service industries. If possible, accompany your card to the register where possible to minimise the risk.
- Read the voucher you sign. It is difficult to dispute a transaction you have signed for.
- Keep copies of your vouchers. They are your record of the transaction.
- Sign your credit card with a pen as soon as you receive it.
- Once your old card has expired, cut it diagonally in half before disposing of it. This minimises the risk of the number being copied.
- Immediately report any lost or stolen cards to your credit providers. This will both minimise the risk and reduce the inconvenience.
- When you report a card as lost or stolen, be sure to ask for a receipt number and keep record of when and how you reported the loss in case there is any dispute at a later date.
Phishing refers to emails sent from fraudsters pretending to be from a reputable organisation seeking details about your financial accounts. These fraudsters then use this information to withdraw money out of your account either online or by producing a credit card and taking money out of an ATM.
Phishing emails appear genuine but they are not. Various tricks may be used to entice you to respond including threats like “your account has been frozen” or “your card has been cancelled”. No reputable financial institution will ever ask you to provide your account information via an email, so resist the temptation to reply or follow the instructions of these emails.
If you have clicked on the email, contact the financial institution referred to in the email as soon as possible.
If you receive a phishing email, contact your financial institution immediately as the matter can be passed on to the police.
Shopping over the internet has become increasingly popular. Most internet sites are safe, but with the growth of online shopping, there has been an increase in the incidence of online credit card fraud. However you can take some simple steps to reduce the chance of becoming a victim of online credit card fraud.
- Deal only with reputable merchants. Make sure the website you access also has the physical address for the merchant and a phone number that you can contact if problems occur.
- Shop at websites offering secure shopping. Secure websites will display an unbroken key or padlock at the bottom of your screen.
- Don’t send credit card or account details by email – the information won’t be secure. If you can’t send the details by secure methods, its best to phone your details.
- You should be given an opportunity to confirm or reject an online order before you pay for it. Use this opportunity to make sure there are no errors.
- Print your order before you send it, noting any reference numbers. You may need these if there is a problem.
- When internet shopping, always check the cost. Be aware of extra costs like GST, delivery fees and packaging or postage. Take note of who pays for the cost of postage if the goods need to be returned. When shopping at an overseas based site, consider freight and customs costs.
- Check if your credit card provides a purchase guarantee. In some cases, if an item was purchased on your credit card and was not delivered, damaged or stolen you may be able to recover the costs.
Doing your banking online is a safe option if you take the necessary precautions.
- NEVER disclose personal information such as your account or credit card number, or PIN in response to an email.
- Change your PIN on a regular basis, and NEVER disclose it to anyone, not even a representative of your bank.
- Ensure that you always have the latest version of security protection software on your computer, such as personal firewall and anti-virus software. Importantly, be sure to check regularly for updates to keep your protection reliable.
- Always sign onto internet banking from your browser by typing the web address into the address bar.
- Avoid using internet banking at public access computers such as internet cafes and airport lounges. If unavoidable, be sure to change your password as soon as possible.
- Never leave your computer unattended when signing onto internet banking.
- Always sign off properly from internet banking by selecting ‘Sign/Log Off’ – don’t just close your browser.
Remember, if you believe your account has been compromised in any way, contact your bank immediately.
ATM (automatic teller machine) cards make it easy to access your money – but in the wrong hands together with your personal identification number (PIN), they can be the equivalent of a blank cheque. So it makes sense to keep your ATM card – and your money, safe.
- Keep you PIN number a secret and never disclose it to anyone.
- Memorise your PIN or choose one that is not related to your birthday, phone number or other readily available personal details.
- Don’t store your PIN in your wallet. Around a third of all ATM card frauds occur when the PIN was in the account holder’s wallet.
- If you suspect that someone knows your PIN, change it immediately.
- Check all ATM receipts against your bank statements.
- Never lend your ATM cards to anyone, or leave cards or receipts lying around the house.
- Be careful when using ATMs. If you notice someone loitering near an ATM, it may be safer to use another machine.
- Be alert when using an ATM. If something about the machine seems out of the ordinary – like an unusual attachment to the machine, a different card slot, your card is not returned or a new facia appears, report the situation to the ATM owner immediately.
‘Identity fraud’, also known as ‘identity takeover’ or ‘identity theft’, is a growing problem both internationally and here in Australia. It involves criminals assuming your identity to apply for credit in your name – debts for which you may be liable. Estimated to cost around $4 billion annually, identity fraud can create endless problems for victims through stress and inconvenience, as well as financial loss.
Protect your financial identity
Victims of identity fraud often know the person who tries to steal their identity. So, don’t assume it won’t happen to you. The following steps can reduce the likelihood of you becoming a victim.
- Know what’s on your credit bureau file. Contact VEDA Advantage (a credit reporting agency) on 1300 921 621 or visit
www.mycreditfile.com.au, to get a copy of your credit bureau file. An ongoing monitoring service can also alert you to any activity on your file to help you avoid unauthorised activity.
- Check your financial statements. If you come across entries you didn’t authorise or you’re unsure about, contact your financial institution immediately.
- Shred any paperwork - including statements and receipts displaying your personal details, before you discard them.
- Always sign new credit cards, ATM cards or other personal ID items as soon as you receive them. Don’t disclose these details to anyone. Minimise the amount of personal identification (including Medicare cards) that you carry with you.
- Mail boxes can be a target for identity thieves. If a credit card or other account statement is late, contact your financial institution to confirm when they were posted to you. Or arrange to pick them up from your branch.
- If your cards or wallet are lost or stolen, contact all your financial institutions and the police immediately. Remember to include accounts that you may not use regularly.
- Never provide personal financial details – especially account information, over the phone unless you initiated the call or email, even if it looks to be genuine.
Dealing with identity fraud
If you have been the victim of identity fraud, you need to act quickly. Follow the steps below, and be sure to keep a record of all the conversations and correspondence you enter into.
1. Immediately contact your financial institution/s and credit provider/s. Inform them of the fraudulent activity promptly, otherwise you may be responsible for any debts charged to your account. Arrange to stop payments on any lost or stolen cheques, and change your PINs and account passwords.
2. Contact the police – identity theft is not just inconvenient, it’s a crime.
3. Contact VEDA Advantage on 1300 921 621 or
www.mycreditfile.com.au to get a copy of your credit bureau file. This will confirm if someone else has used your credit identity.
Your credit providers will carry out their own investigations and notify VEDA Advantage of the outcome. Any fraudulent activity can then be removed from your credit bureau file.
Re-establishing your financial identity
The following steps can help you repair some of the damage caused by identity theft, and regain financial control.
Credit or debit card accounts: If you discover that an identity thief has changed the billing address on an existing account, ask your provider to open a replacement account with a new number and close the old account. When you open a new account, request that an identifying question be asked before any inquiries or new changes can be made.
Bank accounts: If an identity thief has tampered with your bank accounts, cheques, or ATM card, close the account immediately. When you open new accounts, consider password-only access be used to prevent thieves violating the new account. When you select a new PIN or identifying question, avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your date of birth, your phone number or a series of consecutive numbers.
If any cheques have been stolen, are missing or have been misused, contact the bank to arrange a stop payment order.
If your ATM card has been stolen, lost or otherwise compromised, cancel the card immediately and arrange for a new one with a different PIN.
Contact your creditors: including your credit card provider, your bank, your phone company and other utilities or lenders. It is especially important to contact credit providers as there are various legislative, regulatory and industry codes that spell out the procedures for dealing with errors on credit and debit accounts (Click on ‘
Timing is everything’ for more details).