Credit card fraud – is the most common type of identity crime and on the rise. If you’re like most of us, you own, carry and use a bunch of credit cards. Actually, some of you may have credit cards which you are not aware of, never used them, or don’t even know where they are. If you are one of these people who are also unaware about credit card identity theft risks, please consider the following tips as they apply to your unique needs and situations. Although, you cannot control every single risk, there are a few things you could do to prevent and manage debit or credit card fraud. Here are a few examples:

Keep track of your wallet - very few people are aware of the contents in their wallets. This may include debit or credit cards they carry in their wallet or purse, other personal information such as a Personal Identification Number (PIN) written on a piece of paper or a social security card. Always take an inventory of what you carry with you. List the inventory related information such as the type of the card, its number, etc. and keep it in a safe place. This will make sure you can report and recover your lost item in a timely manner, while, limiting credit card fraud damage.

Use your wallet carefully - Every time you take your wallet out of your pocket or purse to pay for a purchase, you may expose other confidential information to people around or behind you in line such as a driver’s license information including your name, address, date of birth, and driver’s license number. Use it less frequently and discretely as it may include many valuable personal information, which may be exposed to theft, loss and privacy risks.

Don’t carry them all at the same time - you probably don’t need all your cards with you at all times. The less you carry with you, the less exposed you will be to credit card fraud. Go through the contents of your wallet and purse periodically and ask yourself, do I need really need all these cards with me?

Store them in a safe place - if you answered “no” to the question above, then you need to have a fireproof safe box in your home or office to store all those cards when you don’t carry them with you. Failure to eliminate or secure credit cards can lead to credit card fraud.

Notify banks and close the accounts - upon discovery that your credit cards have been lost or stolen, notify the banks immediately and ask to close your accounts to avoid credit card fraud.

Cancel your lost cards even if you recover them - If the privacy of your credit or debit card is compromised, meaning, the card number becomes known to criminals, you are at credit card fraud risk even if you recover and physically possess the cards.

Don’t get too many credit cards - this is good for a few reasons; first, it’s good for your credit, second, to get a credit card, you have to share your personal information with a bank, and in my opinion, the less you share your information with others, the more secure your identity will be, and third, you are less likely to lose what you don’t have, therefore, reducing your chance of facing a credit card fraud. These are all good reasons, especially if you don’t have to have another credit card.

Reassess Your Unused Credit Cards - unused credit cards expose us to unnecessary identity theft and credit risks which can be easily avoided without any impact to our credit worthiness, credit needs and credit solutions. Take an inventory of all your credit cards, reassess their usefulness to your life, and eliminate those unused and worthless credit cards.

Don’t use your debit card for purchases - during your next purchase, when the smiling cashier asks you whether you would like to use your ATM card as a debit or credit, say “CREDIT”. If you use your card as a credit card, you don’t have to use and reveal you Personal Identification Number also known as PIN.

Don’t keep your PINs and cards together - always keep them separate. That way, if you lose your card, getting cash would be difficult for the thieves without the PIN which otherwise would be a very easy debit or credit card fraud. On the other hand, writing the PIN or any other passwords or pass phrases in an encrypted or coded manner like a self-developed code is a good idea, because they will not be useful to criminals if you lose them.

Shred your credit card statements - After you get your monthly credit card statements, if you decide to discard them instead of filing them in a secure location, then use a shredder to discard them. Your credit card statements include many personal information that need to be protected, even after you decide you have no need for them. This idea should not be limited to just credit card statements but also to all other statements with personal information received from other financial institutions.

Use only cash whenever you can - well, this is no brainer. By using cash, you exchange no personal information in the course of your shopping transactions, unless of course when you decide to complete a survey. Less personal information you share with others, the less exposed you are to identity theft risks.

Use fraud alerts to prevent identity theft - placing fraud alerts on credit reports is a good way to reduce the risk of identity theft.

Consider hard core credit freeze - the only way you can stop the sharing of your credit reports without your authorization with third parties is by placing credit or security freeze on your credit reports. And without a credit report, it will be hard to commit a credit card fraud.

Check your credit reports regularly - monitor your credit report on a periodic basis, preferably every 3 months. This will help you detect any unusual or unauthorized transactions on a timely basis. Statistics point out that most identity theft crimes go undetected for 6 months. You need to be proactive for detecting this crime, although, you may be contacted by the credit card company about unusual transactions not characteristic of your shopping habits.

Always inquire about the privacy and disclosure policies – If and when you do decide to share personal information because of legitimate and needed business transactions, beware of the company’s privacy and security policies and measures. The policies will tell you how the company intends to use your information and whether they will share your information with others, how often, and in what format. Sometimes, the companies share the collected personal information with other affiliated entities. Therefore, based on their policies, you may even decide not to do business with that company if you feel uncomfortable with what the company intends to do with your information which may lead to credit card fraud.

Don’t share your information - always, think about the consequences of sharing your information assets with others. Think about how they will handle your information and whether they will apply the same precautions as yourself. Be curious and attentive and question the way your information will be treated because it’s your information and no one else can or should take responsibility, unless it is part of the contract as in their privacy policies.

Don’t recycle all your personal documents - What we mean by this is that it is expected that people who recycle, will place all their documents in the paper and plastic recycler also known as the blue bin. So a targeted search by thieves can be possible and easier. So, we recommend not recycling critical and sensitive documents which are what thieves expect, especially if they are not shredded.

Place the trash can for pickup at the last minute possible - this will not give the “dumpster divers” enough time to go through your trash looking for information. Know the timing of the trash pickup and dump your trash for pick up at the last possible minute.

Shred your credit cards before returning them to close your accounts - this is a very good idea to prevent credit card fraud, especially if you decide or are required to return the credit card to the issuer in order to close the account. This will ensure your card can not be used in case it is lost and lead to credit card fraud.

Don’t give out your credit card numbers - never share your credit card number unless it is absolutely necessary and it is with a reputable company. Make sure the person you share your information with is really an employee or representative of the company you want to do business with. This is even more important if you decide to share the information over the internet as credit card fraud over the internet is on the rise.

Beware of your surroundings – when using your secret codes to access cash at ATMs or using your debit card at stores where you have to enter a PIN, beware of your surroundings and the eyes looking over your shoulders. Cover your hand when typing the secret code. Don’t be embarrassed as we all might get sometimes when we try hard to be secretive. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Keep an eye on the periodic statements - You must know your information and that includes the timing of your periodic statements.

Review your statement even if you think your balance is zero - what if your account was hijacked and unauthorized charges were made on your account? Would you know this if you did not examine the account statement or if the creditor did not call you to collect? Our assumptions actually help the criminals because they delay the credit card fraud or any other identity theft case detection process and allow criminals to go on with their crimes. So, please open the statements and review the balance and the transactions. Make sure they look familiar to you.

Think before you accept a new credit card offer - We all get daily offers in the mail to get new credit cards, but we have to be selective and careful when considering such offers.

Lock your mailbox and collect your mails frequently - your mailbox is a great source of information for identity thieves. Don’t give them the opportunity to take advantage of an unlocked and full mailbox.

Don’t leave your credit cards behind - Some people leave their credit cards behind as they rush to their planes at the airport, cabs or work after they’ve made their credit card purchase. In some cases, these accidents have led to identity theft and credit card fraud. Make sure you recover your card immediately and as soon as possible.

Refute the unauthorized credit card charges - When we come across credit card transactions that appear to be erroneous or unauthorized, we should refute the crfedit card charges properly and immediately to prevent additional credit card fraud.

Monitor expired credit cards - When the bank does not replace an expired credit card before the card expiration date, we have to assume the possibility that the new card might be in the wrong hands and take appropriate actions.

Credit Card Expiration is Good - There are very good reasons why credit cards expire and although it may be a hassle to constantly update credit card expiration dates, expired credit cards are less useful to thieves.

Use Credit Cards Strategically - There are many advantages of using credit cards strategically including timely credit approval, maximum rewards, and fewer issues associated with lost or stolen credit cards.

Use Prepaid Credit Cards – Prepaid cards are excellent tools for managing various risks without compromising many of the benefits that we receive from traditional credit and debit cards such as for budgeting and identity theft prevention.