Neighborhood Credit Union

How You Can Keep Your Cards Safe

Published November 8, 2017


By Jordan Ottaway

Halloween has come and gone, Christmas music is playing, and Starbucks just released its holiday cups. You know what that means. The holiday season is officially here.

It also means that you, and millions of other Americans, will flock to malls and outlet stores in hopes of getting their gift shopping done before it’s too late. Armed with your shopping list and comfortable walking shoes, it’s a safe bet that you’ll also include your credit and debit cards in your shopping arsenal.

Now let’s talk security. You’ll be buying your gifts both online and in stores, so before you kick off the 2017 holiday season, here are some ways you can shop until you drop and not worry about your cards getting compromised.

Have EMV chip-enabled cards

If you do find yourself in the store, having a chip card gives you added security when checking out. Sure, it takes longer to process, but chip cards are much harder to clone. There is also a more sophisticated encryption that talks back and forth with the payment terminal to make sure it’s actually you making the purchase. Unlike magnetic-strip cards that broadcast your bank information as is.

Now what about if the store you’re shopping in doesn’t have a way for you to insert your chip card? It’s like you’re losing the added security having to swipe. You can avoid it by adding that card to your phone. According to Square, paying from your phone doesn’t actually store the card number of the device. Instead they use something called “tokenization” to send temporary numbers the payment terminal can use for that specific transaction. Then the number changes, and can’t be used again.

Set up security alerts

It can be difficult to monitor your account when you’re constantly using your card for holiday shopping. Being alerted when there is suspicious activity on your account is invaluable if your information was compromised. Even if it’s not and you just made a big purchase, it’s nice to know you have something to help monitor your account.

Setting it up is quick and easy. For example, if you want to set up alerts for your MyNCU account, you can inside of Online Banking under the “My Settings” tab.

Be aware of scam attempts

The holidays and tax season are the times scammers are most active. A popular choice for scammers are Phishing scams.

If you don’t know, Phishing attacks are where scammers pose as a legitimate company hoping to get your online account information over the internet. Even if the source looks credible, never open suspicious links or messages because your information could be at risk.

Since so many people are shopping online, scammers could pose as retailers and shipping companies asking you to “verify your order.” Be very cautious if you get emails like this because it could be a bad link. If you have any questions about emails you get from shipping companies or retailers, reach out to them specifically to ask if they send you anything regarding your order.

I’ve done this a few times because I was getting emails that seemed a bit off. It’s always better to take extra steps to be sure because the risk is not worth losing your personal information.

Just so you know, Neighborhood Credit Union won’t ask you for confidential information without first verifying your identity through security questions that are specific to each member.

Use your credit card for online shopping

With Amazon being so popular, the majority of Americans, myself included, do their holiday shopping online and have it shipped to their houses. If that’s your plan this year, I always recommend using your credit card as much as possible when making online purchases.

Not only does it make it easier to dispute if you have an issue, but fraudsters won’t have access to your entire bank account if they do get your information.

However, if you do decide to use your debit card for online purchases, be cautious and only buy from secure and encrypted sites and from brands you know and trust. How can you tell if a site is secure?

  • The website URL will begin with https instead of http.
  • You can look for an image of a lock next to the URL. Like this: secure webiste

Despite popular belief, using debit cards online is safer than you think, but it’s always a good idea to cover your basis to make sure you’re safely making your purchase.

Save your online shopping for secure Wi-Fi networks

I’m just as guilty as the next person on this one. Being able to use Wi-Fi at Starbucks, cafes, and bookstores are extremely convenient if you need to hop on the Internet real quick, check your balance for that next holiday purchase, or even make that next gift purchase.

However, you need to be cautious about what you do while using unsecure networks because your information can become exposed to hackers. There is malware that can get onto your device and remain dormant until you open up an app that holds your personal information. Your MyNCU Mobile App is secure, but waiting to do banking business on a secured network is always ideal. It’s the best way to keep your information out of the wrong hands.

As you go about your holiday shopping, know that taking the small steps to keep your cards and your information secure goes a long way. No one needs fraud killing the holiday spirit, am I right?