Credit card theft. Identity theft. Paper cuts. The world is a scary and dangerous place, isn't it? Well, you can make life a lot easier by being on the lookout for scams and pitfalls. Here are a few tips on how to manage your credit cards and avoid being the victim of identity theft:
- Photocopy the contents of your wallet. Every few months, dump all of your credit cards and other important cards onto a photocopier and record their fronts and backs. Save these papers in a safe place (in case your wallet is ever stolen or just lost).
- Carry the bare minimum when it comes to cards. Why have more cards than you need on you for a thief to steal?
- Check your credit report occasionally for any signs of mischief. (We offer an easy way to do so -- getting all three reports in one at a discounted price.)
- Don't have your Social Security number printed on your checks. Only reveal your number on a need-to-know basis.
- Take that receipt! By leaving receipts on store counters or elsewhere, you may be relinquishing them to a scoundrel who can glean information from them and proceed to make your life miserable.
- Pay attention to your credit card statements. You don't want to one day say, "Hey, I don't think I've gotten a statement in several months!" That could mean that someone has changed your address or is swiping your mail. (Consider getting a mailbox that locks.) Make sure the charges on the statement are accurate. If you see charges you never made, contact the company that issued the credit card.
- Shred credit card solicitations and any other documents you want to discard that contain valuable personal information. (You can get off mailing lists and receive fewer credit solicitations, too.)
- Don't use a credit card to buy things online unless you're sure that you're dealing with a reputable vendor and that the transaction page is secure. In Microsoft's
(NASDAQ:MSFT)Explorer browser, for example, look for a closed padlock in the lower-right-hand corner.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Microsoft and several credit cards.