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Be responsible with your cards. The best way to protect yourself against card fraud is to know where your cards are at art times and to keep them secure. Carry only those cards that you think you will need. Sign your cards as soon as they arrive. Think twice before you tend your card to anyone, and do not leave cards tying around.

* Follow up quickly. Report the toss or theft of your credit cards and your ATM or debit cards to your card issuers as quickly as possible. Many companies maintain toll-free numbers and 24-hour services to handle emergencies. After you call, follow up with a letter that includes your account number, when you noticed your card was missing, and the date you called to report the toss or fraudulent use.

* Reconcile monthly statements carefully and promptly. Open your monthly statements promptly and reconcile your account with your receipts in the same way you balance your checking account. If you notice discrepancies or mistakes, report them immediately.

* Disclose your personal information carefully. Do not provide personal or financial card information over the phone unless you know the person who is receiving the information, you are dealing with a reputable company, or you initiated the phone call. The same applies when responding to account verification requests for financial information sent over the Internet.

* Protect your personal identification number. To protect your ATM and debit card, guard your PIN. Do not use obvious passwords, such as your address, birth date, phone or social security number as your PIN, and consider changing your password regularly. Memorize your PIN and do not carry it in your wallet or purse. Never write your PIN on your ATM or debit card, and avoid writing your PIN on the outside of a deposit slip, an envelope, or other papers that could be easily lost or seen. Finally, before you input your PIN into an ATM machine, carefully check that you are not being monitored. Cover the screen or keypad of an ATM or public phone so thieves cannot watch you enter your PIN.

* Avoid non-bank ATMs. Although most non-bank ATMs are legitimate, the chances of someone tampering with these machines is much greater. Phony ATMs may be owned by thieves who will steal your bankcard information.

* Be cautious with your credit and debit card receipts. Credit card receipts contain important information. For example, write a line through blank spaces on charge or debit slips above the total to ensure that the amount cannot be changed. Void incorrect receipts. Do not sign a blank charge or debit slip. Destroy carbons and save your receipts to check against your monthly statements. Do not leave receipts lying around.

* Be alert when you use your credit card. When you use your card, keep an eye on it during the transaction. Get it back as quickly as possible. Make sure your card does not get swiped twice through a credit card machine.

* Destroy old credit, debit, and ATM cards. Destroy all old cards by cutting through the account number before discarding the cards.

* Be prepared for toss or fraud. Keep a record–in a safe place, such as a fire-proof cabinet, separate from your cards–of the important information related to your credit card. This record should include the following for each credit, debit, or ATM card you maintain: the card issuer, your account/card number, expiration dates, and the customer service or emergency telephone number of each card issuer so you can report a toss quickly. You may even create your own worksheet to keep track of this information.

* Check your insurance policy. Your homeowner’s insurance policy may cover your liability for loss or theft of your credit card. If it does not, determine whether your insurance company will allow you to change your policy to include this protection.

* Be persistent with your financial institution. If you report loss, theft, or fraudulent use of your card to your bank, follow up to make sure your bank recognizes your situation. Check your monthly statement to ensure that your account has been reimbursed for any fraudulent charges. If your bank is not responding, be persistent and continue to follow up until your situation is resolved.

–From Prying Eyes

COPYRIGHT 2005 Saturday Evening Post Society
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

This Financial Services article was written by Prying Eyes on 6/1/2005

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