How to Stay Safe from Debit and Credit Card Fraud

Tips to protect yourself from credit and debit card thieves and what to do if you become a victim.

Laura Adams, MBA
5-minute read
Episode #258

So you’re in a store, you see that thing that you’ve been eyeing for a while, and today it’s finally on sale! You reach for your credit card to make the purchase … but it isn’t in the usual spot. As your heart starts to race, you frantically check a few different places, and that’s when you realize: your credit card is gone. If you’re lucky, you might remember where you left the card and get it back without a problem.

But if your credit or debit card was stolen—or if you have the card but someone used your number to go on a spending spree—I’ll tell you exactly how to protect yourself and your credit.

6 Ways Thieves Steal Your Card Information

First, let’s cover how thieves typically get your confidential information in the first place. Here are 6 ways crooks can lift your debit or credit card:

  1. Stealing: A thief can take your wallet, purse, credit card, or personal documents the old-fashioned way, by snatching them when you’re not looking.

  2. Dumpster Diving: This dirty pastime involves rummaging through trash bins looking for bills, statements, or other documents with confidential information that you neglected to turn into confetti.

  3. Skimming: A skimmer is an electronic storage device that steals your card number. It can be installed over the swipe slot on a self-service machine, like a gas pump or an ATM. Dishonest clerks can also use a skimmer while they process your card in a store or restaurant.

  4. Database Access: Corrupt employees can steal credit card numbers from their company database, or sell them to other thieves.

  5. Phishing: This is an email scam where a crook pretends to be a financial institution, government agency, or a well-known company and tries to dupe you into giving up your personal information.

  6. Changing your address: A thief can divert your mail so it goes to another location where they take your account numbers and other confidential information. Once a thief has your credit card information, they can change the billing address on the account, hoping it’ll take you a while to catch on to their shenanigans.


About the Author

Laura Adams, MBA

Laura Adams received an MBA from the University of Florida. She's an award-winning personal finance author, speaker, and consumer advocate who is a frequent, trusted source for the national media. Money-Smart Solopreneur: A Personal Finance System for Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, and Side-Hustlers is her newest title. Laura's previous book, Debt-Free Blueprint: How to Get Out of Debt and Build a Financial Life You Love, was an Amazon #1 New Release. Do you have a money question? Call the Money Girl listener line at 302-364-0308. Your question could be featured on the show.