It’s all too easy to take our safety and security for granted. The problem is, many of the corporations and institutions in America have proved to be poor stewards of the data we entrust to them.
And when it comes to safeguarding our personal data, few things are as important as our financial information. Credit cards, in particular, can pose a significant challenge when security isn’t what it should be. Thankfully, there are several things you can do to prevent the worst from happening.
In other words, your continued financial security is very much something you can take into your own hands – sometimes, quite literally. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Be Wary of Free Wi-Fi
Not to be a fear-monger, but that Wi-Fi hotspot in your favorite coffee shop or airport is probably not nearly as secure as you’d like to think. The rule of thumb here is to refrain from doing any sensitive or personally identifying computing while you’re connected to a public hotspot. The alternative would be to invest in a VPN or a hardware-based privacy tool.
Don’t Forget to Monitor Your Credit
One of the most common mistakes made by Americans is neglecting – or outright forgetting – your credit score. Credit scores used to be highly mysterious numbers, derived using proprietary formulas, but those times are behind us. It’s now easier than ever to not only check, but routinely monitor, your credit score.
Free services like Quizzle, Mint, and CreditKarma are all great tools to help you watch for suspicious financial activity.
Memorize Your Pin Number
Nobody likes PIN numbers. It’s one of the reasons why we’re always on the lookout for simpler payment methods, whether they take the form of Google Wallet, Apple Pay, or something else entirely.
If one of your credit or debit cards requires a PIN number, it can be tempting to write than number down in an accessible place, but that’s the last thing you want to do; it’s all too easy for a would-be credit card theft to make off with not only your card, but the number that makes it work.
PIN numbers are, traditionally, only a few digits long. Take the time to memorize it, and then enjoy a little peace of mind.
Invest in a Shredder
To be fair, paper credit card statements – or physical recordkeeping in general, for that matter – is a relic from another time. Even so, there still may be some financial accounts in your life for which you prefer to receive paperwork for your records. There’s nothing wrong with that. The only problem comes when you fail to dispose of your paperwork in a conscientious manner.
Shredders help protect your personal data from prying eyes. Again, there are probably fewer identity thefts picking through your trash these days than there are tech-savvy predators stalking public Wi-Fi hotspots, but the threat is still out there. Don’t play into their hands by carelessly tossing out your paperwork.
How Does Your State Compare?
Finally, it’s worth taking a look at which states in the U.S. currently have the worst track records for credit card fraud. I’m not about to suggest that you move to a different state to avoid the threat, but it’s still worth keeping in mind. For those of you in Colorado, for example: be on your guard.
The information above came to us from an infographic by Native Merchant Services. It features research from leading financial publications and institutions including the Wall Street Journal, Bank of America, and USA Today. You can see the full image here.