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Ten tips to avoid unauthorized credit card use this holiday season

This holiday season, fraudsters will try to take advantage of your higher usage of credit cards to buy gifts to slip in unauthorized purchases. They are counting on you to be too busy or not as watchful at this time of year.

Here are ten tips on how to enhance the security of your credit card:

  1. Set up real-time transaction alerts for all purchases with your credit card. This ensures that you are immediately notified of any authorized activity on your account.

  2. Establish a threshold for purchase amounts. When the card is used for transactions that exceed a specified limit, you can receive a notice and often a request to authorize the purchase. This will help you detect any unusual or unauthorized large purchases.

  3. Enable alerts for international transactions if you stay in your home country. Any transactions in foreign nations are a red flag for potential fraud.

  4. Establish location-based alerts to receive notifications when your card is used in a different city or state. This will help you detect unauthorized transactions in distant or unfamiliar places.

  5. Set up alerts specifically for online purchases. If your card is used for online transactions from a retailer you do not recognize, the notification will allow you to take action if needed.

  6. Enable alerts for card-not-present transactions. The term “card not present” means the purchase was made remotely, without processing a physical card via a card reader or terminal such as online by phone. If you have not used the card in that way, you can act quickly to report the suspected fraud.

  7. Did you know you can use your credit card to get cash from an ATM? An alert can inform you of when, where, and how much was withdrawn and notify your card issuer that it was not authorized.

  8. As we described in a blog post, fraudsters use card skimmers to steal your account information. Set up alerts for transactions at gas stations so you can quickly identify and respond to suspicious activity.

  9. Establish daily spending limits on your credit card. Once the limit is reached, you'll receive an alert, helping you to catch any unauthorized transactions.

  10. Download your credit card issuer's mobile app and enable push transaction notifications. The alerts will go to your smartphone in real time, providing immediate information on any unusual activity.

When you suspect card fraud, report it immediately to your credit card company by calling the toll-free number on the back of your card or sending a message through your issuer’s app. Stop any further misuse by locking the card if that’s a feature on your mobile app or online account.

Here are three other ways to protect yourself from fraudsters this holiday season:

  • Monitor your card activity every few days through your online account. Access it only from a secure location like your locked home Wi-Fi network.
  • Keep your contact information up to date. Many times, your card issuer will call or email you if it suspects an unauthorized use. Make sure you can be reached right away.
  • Strengthen the password on your online account. While using a longer combination of numbers, letters, and symbols might be inconvenient, thieves will have a more challenging time stealing your account information.

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