Bank accounts and credit cards will be feeling the strain as we splash out on Christmas shopping and entertaining. It's reckoned total spending on plastic alone over the festive season will hit £32 billion in the UK.
Online shops are expecting record sales and ATMs will be working overtime as we take out cash. However the big spending will mean big opportunities for fraudsters. Most of us are concentrating on enjoying the festive season but for crooks it is an ideal time to make some extra money.
The good news is that the introduction of CHIP and PIN technology has cut the levels of fraud. In the first six months of this year it was down to £209 million. But that is still a lot of money and the bad news is that online credit card fraud is rising.
Play your cards right and stay safe
The most important advice is to not let your credit cards, or your card details, out of your sight when you are spending. When paying for goods your credit card should always remain visible, this will make copying or cloning your credit card or debit card details impossible by would be fraudsters.
It also means not throwing away receipts in the street or leaving them in restaurants or shops. Ideally you should shred everything but at least you should try to dispose of them safely.
Do not write down passwords, login details and PINs. If they are in your wallet and it is stolen it's an invitation to fraudsters.
And when you are online don't reply to unsolicited emails asking for your passwords and PINs. This is a technique known to fraudsters as phishing. Don't get caught in the net.
Guard your cards in shops and online
When you are taking cash out of an ATM or paying in a shop don't let anyone look over your shoulder to see what your PIN is. Use your spare hand to shield your card and PIN details.
When you are on the phone only give out your account details if you have made the call and you trust the company you are dealing with. If they phone you they should not ask for your account information, so do not let it slip if you weren't expecting the call.
You can register your credit cards with Verifiied by Visa or Mastercard SecureCode. Ask your bank or credit card provider about these services. You can register online but of course if you do register keep your password safe and secure.
When you go to your bank's website always type in the address yourself. Don't click through from emails.
And only use websites which have a security icon on them. This will be a locked padlock or an unbroken key in the bottom of your browser window.
If it all goes wrong
One in three people in the UK have been credit card fraud victims and a card fraud takes place every nine seconds. So you're not alone.
If you have been caught tell your bank or building society immediately and report the theft or loss to the police immediately.
Telling the police will make the process of getting your money back a lot easier.
Don't worry. If someone uses your credit card before you tell the bank or building society then the most you will have to pay is £50. However some companies take a tough line so you need to be able to prove you were not negligent (which may not be as easy as it seems). That means, for instance, not giving away your PIN to others and not being careless with receipts.
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