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Online Security Review, Identity Theft vs. Credit Card Theft: What’s the Difference?

Living in an increasingly digital world is great for comfort and convenience, but there’s a downside to greater reach in the digital realm: It creates new avenues for theft and fraud.

“Data theft, for both companies and individuals, is one of the top security concerns for 2017,” said Garit Boothe, a technology specialist at Frontier Communications. “There’s a growing threat to personal information security, but a lot of consumers are left in the dark as to how to deal with the effects.”

Yet, despite this growing threat, many people are unfamiliar with the details of credit card fraud and identity theft; let alone how to handle the aftermath of a breach.

In the face of rising risk, knowing what you’re up against can help you better prepare for and manage a potential loss. The average person is likely to encounter either credit card theft and identity theft, or both, in his or her lifetime. Let’s take a closer look at how those two types of information fraud differ, and what you can do to handle the effects of each.

What is credit card theft?

Credit card theft is a type of identity theft that occurs when someone accesses your credit card account and uses it to make unauthorized purchases. Credit card theft has, unfortunately, become a common crime. According to a 2015 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), part of the U.S. Department of Justice, 8.6 million Americans ages 16 or older were victims of credit card fraud in 2014.

What is identity theft?

Though the terms “credit card theft” and “identity theft” are often used interchangeably, identity theft refers to a wider — and often much more serious — set of crimes. The Justice Department splits identity theft into three categories.

  1. Fraud or misuse of an existing account is the category into which credit card theft falls. This crime occurs when someone obtains your credit card number or bank-account information, and uses that information to go on a spending spree. Passing bad checks on someone else’s account also qualifies. This is by far the most common type of identity theft, accounting for 16.4 million of the 17.6 million total victims in 2014.
  1. Fraud or misuse of a new account occurs when someone uses your personal information to open a new account. This new account could be relatively small, such as a checking account or a new credit card; it can also be much larger, such as a fraudulent mortgage to buy a house. Roughly 1.1 million victims reported this type of identity theft in 2014.
  1. Fraud or misuse of personal information covers all other events involving improper use of your personal data, including the use of stolen information to get a job, receive medical care, rent an apartment or provide a false identity to law enforcement. This category accounted for 713,000 of the victims in 2014.

While dealing with credit card theft isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, the recovery process is pretty simple. A few solid federal laws protect consumers from bearing the responsibility of fraudulent charges. No matter how much was stolen, you can be held liable for a maximum of only $50 when you report fraud on a credit card account. If you report the fraud within 60 days of learning of it, even that cost may be waived.

Debit cards are a bit different. In order to limit your liability if your card was physically lost or stolen, you need to report the loss quickly. Your liability stands at $50 for the first two days after the discovery of fraud, and then jumps to $500 between the two-day and 60-day mark. Beyond that, you might be accountable for all charges. If your physical card wasn’t taken, however, there’s more leniency; as long as you report the fraudulent use within 60 days, you won’t be liable for a cent.

In some cases, thieves aren’t even able to use the card in the first place. Many card issuers automatically detect suspicious activity and put a block on the card to prevent any future charges. Some companies will even call cardholders to alert them to the attempted use.

Recovering from identity theft

Recovering from full-blown identity theft, in which fraudulent accounts are opened or fraudulent documents are issued in your name, can take years. This type of fraud can be complex and far-reaching, involving multiple avenues of misuse — some of which may go undiscovered until a collection agency attempts to collect a debt that you weren’t even aware existed. It wreaks havoc on credit scores and sometimes places extraordinary stress on victims and their families.

Not all of the effects of identity theft are as easy to quantify or resolve, however. For instance, identity-theft victims often suffer serious emotional consequences, though that element of recovery is rarely discussed. But imagine losing your dream home because you couldn’t get a mortgage, due to years’-old identity theft of which you weren’t aware.

A full 36 percent of victims report suffering moderate to severe emotional distress as a result of identity theft. A recent Equifax report detailed the psychological toll identity theft can take on its victims, noting that many of these individuals experience emotional effects similar to those experienced by victims of assault or home invasion.

If you’ve been the victim of identity theft, immediately consult the federal government’s online resources for ID-theft management. With just a few clicks, you can report fraud and build a custom recovery plan to handle your situation. Once that’s in place, consider consulting with a therapist or psychologist to help manage the emotional fallout.

Avoiding identity theft

If you’ve never been a victim of identity theft, count your blessings. The good news is that minimizing your risk of identity theft is easier that it may seem. Here are a few tips:

  1. Shred sensitive documents before throwing them away. Anything that has personal or financial information — canceled checks, credit-card statements, even junk mail from a bank or credit-card company — is a potential gold mine to an identity thief. When shopping for a good shredder, look for a model that crosscuts the paper into tiny pieces, rather than just into strips that can be pasted back together.
  1. Erase computer and smartphone hard drives. Clean out your personal information before getting rid of old PCs, tablets and smartphones. It is surprisingly easy for someone to get access to personal data if the hard drive hasn’t been totally reformatted and cleaned.
  1. Use antivirus software on your computer. Antivirus software will stop most attacks, as long as you let it update every day. Also, don’t download anything that you don’t trust completely.
  1. Check your credit reports regularly for discrepancies. You can get up to three credit reports free every year. Reading them can help you head off any potential issues before they become too big.
  1. Don’t give out personal information over email. You don’t trust everyone you meet on the street, so why would you trust people who email you out of the blue? A reputable company won’t email you to solicit personal information, so if you’re seeing messages asking for your Social Security number, it’s likely a ploy.
  1. Make your passwords strong and unique. Passwords often act as both your first and last lines of defense against information theft. A strong password should be fairly long and use both numbers and symbols in addition to letters. If you have trouble remembering all of those complex passwords, use a password manager.
  1. Enable two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, creates a secondary wall that’s harder to bypass than a password alone. Enable it on your online accounts whenever possible.

Identity theft is serious business, and it often goes much further than just losing a credit card and making a few phone calls. But there is hope. Use the knowledge in this article to keep your private information private and your identity secure.

Security and Risk Complaints Online on 15 Tips to Avoid Credit Card Fraud

A person that has been a victim of fraudsters could mean that he or she is not fully protected by his or her bank. We suggest that you must know some steps involved in avoiding credit and debit card fraud to protect your pin numbers, card information, and other private information. Following are some simple tips that could help you keep the thieves at bay.

Use a paper shredder

After reviewing your receipts and bank statements, shred them right away.

Use different pin codes

If you have a few cards, don’t use the same pin code on every card.

Don’t use personal details as passwords or pins

This kind of information was easy to guess, so don’t use your birth date or the first 4-5 numbers of your phone number as your password or pin code.

Don’t save passwords on your desktop

Never allow your computer to save your passwords.

Beware of spying eyes

When you are going to withdraw some money at a cash machine in public, be wary of your surroundings and cover up your pin number when typing.

Avoid talking to your bank in public

Always make sure that you’re alone when talking to them and see to it that no one is overhearing your conversation with them. As much as possible don’t make phone calls to your bank in a public place.

Be extra careful on your surroundings

If you’re in a public place such as an internet cafe when doing online banking, be vigilant on your surroundings.

Install anti-virus software

Your personal computer, as well as your mobile devices, needs anti-virus software to stay away from malicious threats. Don’t also forget to keep your software updated.

Don’t be afraid to confront callers

There were a lot of phone scams today, so when someone calls you and claiming they were representatives from your trusted bank, don’t be afraid to ask questions such as why they were calling and such. Or you could also look for the bank’s number on their official website and call them on that number to confirm such calls.

Lock your phone

Set a password on your phone and lock it every time you’re not using it, especially if you have a banking app on your mobile device. This way, no one could access your private information.

Keep your pin number private

If possible, don’t write it on a piece of paper, and don’t save it on your personal computer and mobile devices.

Don’t click links on suspicious emails

If the email state that it is from your bank and asks for you to click on particular links, don’t do it, but call your bank instead or make an inquiry through their official website.

Private information shouldn’t be shared through email

If an email asks you to provide your personal and financial information, or else you’ll be facing grieve consequences such as your account will be “frozen” and such, don’t be threatened and don’t give away your private information.

Don’t trust a website too much

Make sure that the website you’re accessing is trustworthy, especially if you’re making a transaction with it. If you find it suspicious, then don’t provide any private information.

Beware of emails claiming from a legitimate bank

Culprits are more sophisticated these days. They could perfectly copy the logos of a legitimate bank and choose a web address that doesn’t have much difference to the original one, so you won’t find it suspicious on the first look. But always remember that a bank will never ask for your banking details through emails.

Internet security is one of the major concerns nowadays so it would be better if you equipped yourself with sufficient knowledge about internet fraud or phishing scams and how to avoid them. Don’t let yourself be a victim of credit card and debit card fraud, take necessary actions today!