Credit card fraud: It’s easier to avoid than your in-laws over the holidays

What you need to know to keep your credit card accounts safe

It was 6 am on April 15, and Maria was exhausted. She’s a small business owner and had been up until 2 am pulling together receipts so her accountant Paul could file her tax return on time. Just as she was shuffling toward the kitchen to brew a much-needed pot of coffee before running out to a meeting, she got a text from Paul: “Hey, remember to send me your credit card number ASAP so I can process your payment this morning.” She didn’t have time for a phone call—and she knew texting or emailing her credit card information wasn’t safe. . .but what other option did she have?

Identity theft is one of the most common crimes committed today. And with the number of high-profile data breaches we’ve seen lately, you can be sure that the risk isn’t going away anytime soon. Just look at this data from 2017:

  • 15 million consumers in the United States experienced identity theft (The Harris Poll)
  • 1,579 data breaches, exposing more than 178 million records (Identity Theft Resource Center)
  • 33% of identity theft crime was made up of credit card fraud (US Federal Trade Commission)

How do credit card thefts happen?

When it comes to credit card theft by hackers, some of the blame is on us as consumers, and some lies with the companies that store and process our information. Often the networks we use to transmit our payment information just don’t have a strong enough level of encryption to protect our data, and sometimes our account passwords are too easy to hack[AWW1] . 

Masking information through encryption

Encryption is a method of scrambling data so only authorized parties can see it. When it’s strong, it easily shuts out the hackers and malicious software that are trying to steal our information.

One of the worst offenders when it comes to poor encryption is the free public wi-fi that’s available almost everywhere these days, from your favorite local coffee shop, to hotels, airports, and popular tourist destinations.

Pro Tip: Always be cautious when using public wi-fi networks,
and connect with discretion!

Are your account passwords smart and safe?

The other risk when it comes to credit card security is the passwords we use with our online accounts. While easy-to-remember passwords like “12345,” our kids’ names, or our birthdates may be convenient, they’re also weak, and easy for experienced cyberthieves to figure out. And never use the same (or similar) passwords across multiple online accounts; every password should be made up of a random selection of letters, numbers, and symbols.

Keeping password information at our fingertips can put us at risk also. Storing your Amazon login information in an email folder might make life easy for you, but it can also help a fraudster log into your account, make purchases, and steal information about your credit cards.

TIPS: How to use credit cards more securely online

At home, you have a lot of control over how your payment information can be stored and transmitted. Here’s what we suggest:

  • Make sure your wi-fi has state-of-the-art encryption (currently WPA2)
  • Never include identifying information (your physical address, name, etc.) in your network name
  • Develop a strong, unique password (blend letters, numbers, and special characters)

If you’re on the go, keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t perform financial transactions using public wi-fi―avoid even checking account balances unless you absolutely have to
  • If you must use public wi-fi, use a virtual private network (VPN) connection to hide your personal data

And like Maria, if you need to share credit card information, remember that picking up the phone and calling it in is safest. If that’s not an option however, stay away from email and text alternatives that put you at risk. Using a private messenger with secure, end-to-end encryption will transmit your sensitive data quickly and safely.

Dust: Private messaging that’s safe from prying eyes

Using advanced secure technology, the Dust messenger provides a safe and encrypted way to share your credit card data. And you can feel good knowing that afterward, Dust will automatically destroy any trace of your information!

Don’t be the next victim of credit card fraud

Catastrophic data breaches continue to happen every year, and phishing scams, malware, viruses, and hackers get more sophisticated every day. Although phoning in your payment information is safest, it isn’t always practical. When it’s not, using Dust lets you safely share your most sensitive personal information—and completely erase it after transmittal.