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Identity Theft - Head Matters


5. Preventing Fraud and Scams

b. Credit cards

Credit cards are very convenient. Sometimes they’re also a convenient way for an identity thief to steal from you.

Choosing strong PINs and passwords – Use one that is hard to guess. Avoid the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number, your mother’s maiden name, birth dates, names of pets, or even the name of your hometown baseball team. Try to mix numbers, letters and symbols. An example of a strong password is Vk#852@^ because it contains upper and lower case letters, numbers and other characters, doesn’t follow a pattern, and is not close to any word. To choose a strong password that you'll be able to remember, consider combining two things, such as your Mom's birthday (8/2/65) and your high school name (West), like this: W8e2S8t5. Or, think of a phrase and use the first letters of the words or symbolic characters to develop a password—then you can just remember the phrase. For example, "Strong passwords are too important to forget!" could be: SpR2i2f! (Strong–S, passwords–p, are–R, too–2, important–i, to–2, forget–f).

Stolen cards at the office – When you leave your office for lunch, you could be the target of a credit card thief.  Credit card thieves often gain illegal access to the offices of employees who are away. Most times, they leave the offices and immediately go on a shopping spree, charge credit cards to their limits, and withdraw cash on debit cards. Protect your credit cards as you would cash. Never write your PIN number on your debit card or keep your PIN number in your purse or wallet. Instead, memorize your PIN number and use different PIN’s for different accounts.

Unsigned credit cards – Stealing and using credit cards that have not been signed is another potential fraud.  In other words, credit card thieves could steal your unsigned credit cards and then sign your name on the card in their handwriting. By doing so, they take your name as an alias and they will never have a problem writing and verifying their own signature. 

Counterfeit cards – counterfeiters make most counterfeit cards by silk screening or painting the card logo and issuing institution’s name onto a blank piece of card plastic. Because they are silkscreened, the cards don’t look exactly like the real thing. Real credit cards are printed. Also, the signature panel on silkscreened cards may be glued or painted on and can be easily lifted or chipped. This panel may also appear uneven in size or placement. 
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