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How To Protect Credit Card Information—Best Practices To Follow

Ashley Ferraro, Product
May 9, 2024
 Min Read
Protect Your Payments With Virtual Cards

The consequences of being a reckless credit cardholder can be dire. More than $33 billion was lost to payment card fraud worldwide in 2022, according to the Nilson Report. Besides the financial impact, negligence can result in a damaged credit score, tarnished reputation, and limitations to financial freedom.

To avoid these unnecessary stressors, you should be mindful when using your credit card and employ all available security measures. This article will give you some pointers, explaining how to:

  • Check whether your credit card information has been compromised
  • Keep your credit card safe from physical theft and skimming
  • Protect credit card information from online fraud

How To Check Whether Your Credit Card Information Has Been Stolen 

A good starting point for checking if your credit card information has been compromised is reviewing the transaction history and statements of each card you own. You should look out for any charges you or a family member didn't make. It’s advisable to turn on transaction and security alerts in your e-banking account so you can detect fraud immediately.

Checking your credit score is another important step for identifying fraud. If it’s lower than expected, that could be a sign that someone has applied for credit in your name. You can find out your score through your banking app or statement, if available, as well as by purchasing it from the credit bureaus or FICO. Some websites and services offer credit score monitoring as well.

A photo of a person sitting at a desk and typing on a laptop keyboard
Source: Karolina Grabowska

You can also check your email for any data breach notifications. In most cases, companies that store your data after you’ve signed up for their product or service have an obligation to inform you when your data has been exposed, especially if harm is likely to occur. 

Here are some more signs that can indicate your credit card information has been compromised:

  • Notification of a denied loan or credit you didn’t apply for
  • New account in your e-banking account or bank statements
  • Confirmation of annual tax filing you didn’t complete
  • Bills for services you didn’t pay for

How To Protect Your Physical Credit Card 

It’s important to store your credit card in a safe place. You shouldn’t share it with or loan it to anyone. If you can’t find your credit card, freeze the account if possible and contact your card issuer immediately. 

Before using a remote and unattended ATM or PoS terminal, you should check whether it’s been tampered with. Some fraudsters install skimmers or shimmers on card readers to capture your credit card information. You can detect these devices by:

  • Inspecting the reader for misaligned or bulky parts
  • Looking for the security tape and examining whether it’s been ripped
  • Comparing the card reader to others at the location
  • Wiggling or pulling some parts of the reader to see if they’re loose 
  • Trying the keypad and checking whether the buttons are off-center or hard to push

How To Protect Credit Card Information Online

The shift to digital transactions has brought a surge in online card fraud methods. Card-not-present fraud has been on the rise and is expected to rise again in 2024, making up around three-quarters of all payment fraud losses. Adapting and taking all the measures available to keep your credit card safe online is essential.

We've organized credit card fraud prevention advice into five groups for your convenience:

  1. Online account management tips
  2. Online shopping safety tips
  3. Device security tips
  4. Fraud reporting tips
  5. Information protection tips

Online Account Management Tips

When setting up your online credit card account, follow the guidelines in the following table to reduce the likelihood of illicit access and use:

Single shopping account It’s recommended to have only one account and card for online shopping to limit the risk of exposure to hackers. With a single account, monitoring activity and detecting potential fraud will also be easier.
Strong and unique password Your password should be as long and random as possible to make it difficult for hackers to guess. It should contain at least 15 characters and comprise various letters, numbers, and symbols. You should also designate a unique password for each online account.
Two-factor authentication With two-factor authentication (2FA), any potential hackers who steal your login credentials won’t be able to enter your account without completing the second step, such as fingerprint scanning or entering a unique code sent to your phone number.
Security alerts You can also help keep your credit card account safe with security alerts. If you turn this option on, you’ll receive a notification whenever your bank detects suspicious activity. 
Transaction alerts You should turn on transaction alerts to detect unauthorized charges quickly.

Online Shopping Safety Tips

If you’re purchasing from a merchant for the first time, it’s advisable to research them by reading user reviews and checking their website’s connection security. Secure websites have the “https://” prefix in their web address and a padlock symbol next to it.

To protect your credit card, you should only make purchases when connected to a secure Wi-Fi or mobile network. Public Wi-Fi networks can be used by hackers to spy on your activity. 

When completing a transaction, you shouldn’t save your credit card details on the website as they can become exposed in case of a data breach.

A close-up photo of a computer screen displaying the word “security”
Source: Pixabay

Device Security Tips

You should install updates on all your devices as soon as you get the notification that an update is available. They often include crucial security upgrades.

It’s also always a smart choice to install antivirus software and other security apps to protect your credit card online. Doing so will allow you to detect and block malicious websites, emails, and software.

Fraud Reporting Tips

In case you can’t locate your credit card or notice a suspicious charge, you should:

  1. Freeze your account immediately if you have the option.
  2. Notify your credit card issuer of the incident as soon as possible.
  3. Change your passwords.
  4. Keep monitoring your account.

By taking swift action, you can avoid further and more severe consequences, such as identity theft.  

Information Protection Tips

Phishing is an increasingly prevalent and sophisticated type of scam that targets your sensitive information. The perpetrator imitates a real person or business you’re involved with and contacts you via email or phone, requesting your information to verify your account, collect an additional service fee, or deliver an unexpected reward. Legitimate businesses never operate this way, so you should ignore such requests.

Some fraudsters may not request the information directly but rather send you a link to a fake website that can steal your information if you provide it. You shouldn’t click on these links or download any suspicious attachments you receive as they could infect your device with viruses or other types of malware and steal your information.

A close-up photo of a notepad with the word “scam” written on it and with banknotes scattered around
Source: Tara Winstead

Even if the merchant and their website are legitimate, there’s always a risk of data exposure when you provide your credit card information online. That’s why you should use virtual cards for your online transactions

Virtual cards are linked to an actual funding source and function equivalently to regular cards. The difference is that they come with a unique card number, expiration date, and security code, masking your actual financial information during transactions. When you use a virtual card to shop online, you significantly limit the risk of your data becoming compromised should a merchant breach occur.

With an independent virtual card provider like Privacy, you can also enjoy additional security features, advanced spending controls, and seamless checkouts.

Protect Your Online Payments With Privacy Virtual Cards

If you have a debit card or bank account, you can connect it to Privacy and generate multiple virtual cards for different online purchases. Privacy is BBB®-accredited and offers bank-level security, including features such as two-factor authentication and notifications when your cards are used or declined.

You can create two types of Privacy Virtual Cards—Single-Use and Merchant-Locked. When unsure of the merchant’s security practices, you can use a Single-Use Card. This card closes soon after you’ve made the purchase, so it’s useless for hackers who may access it. A Merchant-Locked Card becomes “locked” to one vendor, so it’s ideal for websites you shop with frequently and subscription services

You can pause or close your Privacy Cards at any time. Privacy will block further transaction attempts, stopping any unexpected charges from sneaky merchants. You can also set spending limits—Privacy will decline all exceeding charges and protect against accidental overcharging or overspending.

A photo of a person using a laptop while holding a credit card
Source: Anna Shvets

Other Benefits You Enjoy With Privacy

Privacy offers many other features to make protecting your financial information simple. You can learn about some of them in the following table:

Feature How It Benefits You
Browser extension The extension makes transactions fast and seamless. It auto-populates virtual card details at checkout for maximum convenience. You can get the extension for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari, or Safari iOS if you’re on mobile.
Mobile app The Privacy App is available for Android and iOS and enables you to generate and manage your virtual cards on the go.
1Password browser integration You can integrate Privacy with 1Password to quickly create virtual cards and manage secure passwords.

How To Get Your Privacy Virtual Cards

If you’d like to start using Privacy Virtual Cards, you only need to:

  1. Sign up
  2. Provide the information needed to verify your identity
  3. Add your debit card or bank account
  4. Request and create your first Privacy Card

Privacy Cards are issued by Visa® and Mastercard®, so you can use them to shop at most merchants and websites you’re used to, including eBay, Amazon, and AliExpress.

Privacy’s Personal plan is free for domestic transactions and comes with 12 virtual cards a month, all card controls, and access to the browser extension and mobile app. You can always upgrade to Pro ($10/month) or Premium ($25/month) if you need additional features like:

  • Up to 60 cards per month
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Priority support
  • 1% cashback on eligible purchases (totaling up to $4,500 a month)

Privacy — Seamless & Secure Online Card Payments
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