What Credit Card Fraud Taught Me

 I love online shopping, and I have the shoes to prove it.

In addition to my shopping habit, I also travel abroad frequently and use my credit card for business. So protecting my credentials is crucial. I secure my PC, stick to reputable retailers and monitor my credit card account. And this generally has kept me safe, until just recently…

Just after Easter, I got the alert on my Outlook calendar that reminds me to review my credit card accounts—both for fraud and my own personal overspending. I checked my account and found that my card was used to purchase about €700 worth of goods in the Manchester, England. Here’s the problem: I haven’t been in the United Kingdom for more than a year and a half.

Immediately I called my bank. A representative connected me to a special fraud line. I identified all the suspicious charges and received a letter in which I had to verify under oath that I had not made these charges. In two weeks, all of the fraudulent charges were off my account. Nice.

However, the mystery lingers.  How was my card compromised?

This is where I should mention that in addition to being an avid shoe buyer, I am also a gamer.  I’ve been a member of the Sony PlayStation Network for a while. You probably know that PSN was hacked right before Easter time affecting up to 100 million people. However, I don’t believe I was one of those people as I wasn’t contacted by Sony.

I can’t think of the number of times I’ve handed my card to a waiter or salesperson for them to charge me—in addition to all of online stores and services that have had access to my credentials.

So here’s what I’ve decided to do to make sure I’m not a victim again: I’ve set my Outlook alert to remind me to check my account weekly instead of twice a month. I no longer let online retailers store my account information—and I’m looking into getting an extra online shopping credit card with a very low limit. When I’m abroad, I will be very selective where I use my card and cash will be king – again.

One unexpected consequence of this little drama is that my bank is now closely monitoring my account. Twice they’ve called me about suspicious purchases and both times I’ve had to say, “Yes, Big Brother. I did pay that much for those shoes.”

Have you ever had a similar experience? Do you have any hints that might help me figure out where I went wrong?

Cheers,
Sandra

CC image by Andres Rueda

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If a certain website you need to use requires Java, enable it in just one browser that you use only for that site. 3. Stick to stores/sites you trust. Bad grammar and poor design have been the warning signs of malicious sites and emails for years. But criminals are always upping their game. Your best bet is to avoid untrustworthy sites in general, just as you likely avoid unprofessional looking stores and people who randomly try to sell you stereo equipment from their van. Avoid shopping via Google. Go directly to sites you trust and search there. 4. Only shop over a secure connection -- VPN and https. If you're shopping via Wi-Fi, make sure you're on a network you trust or secure yourself with a virtual private network like F-Secure Freedome. This will encrypt your data to protect your passwords and other private data. Freedome also protects you from scams and trackers, which may use your data to sell you things that do not fit your budget. 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If you're still a Windows XP user, you're probably singing a sad song knowing that after 12 long years Microsoft will end its support for the world's second most popular operating system on April 8, 2014. Microsoft warns you that if you continue to use its OS first introduced before the iPhone even existed "your computer will still work but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses." And if that isn't enough to encourage you to upgrade or get a computer, maybe the fact that "you can expect to encounter greater numbers of apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP" will. But given the millions of PCs running the OS and the scarce amount of time and resources many people have, some people will certainly be XP users well after its "expiration date." If you're going to be one of these daredevils, our Security Advisor Sean Sullivan has some suggestions. "Folks that continue to use XP at home can do so with some reasonable amount of safety, but they absolutely need to review their Internet and computing habits as April draws near," he told us. And he broke down 7 ways to avoid the trouble from the criminals who will surely be targeting these unsupported systems. 1)      Install an alternative browser -- not Internet Explorer. 2)      Review the third-party software you've installed and uninstall anything that isn’t needed. 3)      For the third-party software that you keep – consider disabling or uninstalling the browser plugins. Or at least set the browser to “always ask” what to do about things such as PDF files. (Personally, I always download PDFs to my desktop and open them from there. I don’t want the PDF viewer plugin installed, and I don’t like being in the habit of opening certain file types in my browser’s window.) 4)      Have an up-to-date security product with antivirus and firewall installed. 5)      Keep your XP computer connected to a NAT router, which will act as a hardware firewall. (Practically speaking, this means you shouldn’t be roaming around outside of your home with an XP computer. Don’t plug into a university network for connectivity – keep your computer at home on a trusted network.) As you can see, living in the past may not make life easy. But if it's your only option, you should at least try to stay as safe as possible. Cheers, Sandra [Image via Patrick Hoesly via Flickr.com]

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