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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

WLR Blog
Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2014

HOLIDAY TIPS FOR SENIORS: Protect yourself from holiday credit card theft

blog-creditcardjpgIt’s such a drag to have your credit card number stolen. Crooks know that you’re likely to be distracted this time of year, and they are coming up with more and more creative ways to separate you and your money. As busy as you are during the holidays, it pays to take a few simple steps to protect yourself.

Identity thieves just love it when you use a debit card at an ATM or store that requires you to enter a PIN number on a padded touchpad. Just two clicks with their cell phone, and the thieves can get all information they need to go on a shopping spree at your expense!

First, they snap a photo of your card so they have the number. Then they use a thermal imaging device attached to their phone. The thermal imager captures the heat imprints you leave when you touch the keys. The size and brightness of the impressions tells the thief which keys you touched, in sequence.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to foil this scheme. Just put your fingers on other keys while you enter your PIN, or touch other keys for a few seconds when you’re done.

Better yet, use a credit card instead of a debit card. With a credit card, you don’t have to enter a PIN number, and it’s easier to get reimbursed if someone gets hold of your account.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that credit cards are entirely safe. You’ve probably heard reports about hackers stealing credit card information from retailers. In December of last year, identity thieves stole credit card information, including card numbers and expiration dates, by accessing Target’s card-reading devices. It was believed that they obtained data about millions of cardholders.

Short of using cash to pay for everything, there’s not much you can do about credit card hacking, but you can take steps to catch it right away.

When you get your credit card statements each month, review them immediately and contact the card issuer if any unauthorized purchases show up. Also, change the passwords on your credit card and bank accounts frequently. Create a strong password using a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using easy-to-guess passwords or PIN numbers, such as your initials or birthday.

Sometimes thieves will try to open up a new credit account in your name. The three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, offer credit monitoring and identity protection that alert you if someone tries to create a new account. You can also put a lock on your credit file that prevents anyone from opening a new account without your permission. These credit monitoring services charge a fee of about $15 a month, which can be well worth it for your peace of mind.

Ordering holiday gifts online is another way thieves can get hold of your credit card information. If you choose to buy online, make sure you know and trust the merchant you’re ordering from and that it has a secure website. You’ll know a website is secure when the site’s URL address at the top of the page starts with “https” rather than just “http”. Most secure sites also have a locked padlock icon at the bottom of the screen.

If you do become a victim of credit card or identity theft, go to to learn what steps to take.

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