Everyone makes poor financial decisions from time to time, but there are some money decisions that reach a whole new level of bad.
A recent New Jersey train traveler provides a perfect example: A fellow passenger, sitting three rows back, heard the man give his credit card number to whomever was on the other end of the phone call. This wasn't a case of incidental eavesdropping — apparently the passenger was talking very loudly. In that conversation, he read his full credit card number, expiration date and three-digit security code. He also spelled his name out twice. The passenger posted about the episode on Facebook, ending the comment with, "So ... what should I buy for him?" We get it — you're trying to make your commute more productive.
But this is not the thing to do on a crowded train. Actually, we wouldn't recommend making such a phone call within earshot of anyone, ever. Think about how much you would worry if you lost your wallet — you'd call your credit card companies and cancel the cards immediately, because if someone maxes out your credit card, you're looking at potential credit problems. Why would you give away information you'd never want stolen?
1. Writing It Down
Minimize the number of ways a thief could access your credit card number.
Don't send it in an email or a text message (this includes emailing forms that include your credit card number).
Once you press send, you relinquish your control. You may trust the recipient, but you won't know if their email account is compromised in the future, if their phone is stolen, or anything else they may do with the info.
2. Taking Photos of Your Credit Card
Everyone has an opinion on social media oversharing, but your stance on selfies and hashtags is superficial compared to the fools who post pictures of their credit or debit card numbers.
There's the supremely dumb choice of posting a credit card photo on purpose, no matter how cute the design or custom photo is. Then there's the accidental pictures, like someone Instagramming a picture of a meal without realizing there's a form of payment in the frame.
While your credit card may not display all of the information hackers need to get access to your account, you brought them one step closer. Once a photo like that goes up, there's no getting it back. Best of luck to you, friend.
3. Not Using a Secure Site
Perhaps you have your email account open in a browser tab right now.
If you look at the address bar, you'll most likely see the https:// before whatever domain you use. (If you don't, you might want to consider a better email provider.) If you're going to enter your credit card number on a site, make sure it says https. The "s" stands for secure (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), and indicates there's an added layer of encryption to the data entered on the site.
On a related note: Don't store your credit cards in your browser. Yes, it's convenient. We all like convenient things. However, fraud can be decidedly inconvenient.
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