Check Your Credit/Debit Card Statements NOW!

The holidays are over. Your used your credit card in so many places you forget where. Now is when the bad guy may pull up that “skimmed” card number they got from you when they were working as a temp at the mall.

Every time you use a credit card, you increase the chances of that card number being used fraudulently.

#1 Watch your card. Whenever you hand your credit or debit card to a salesperson or waiter, watch to see where your card is taken and what is done with it. It’s normal for the card to be swiped through a point of sale terminal or keyboard card reader. But if you happen to see your card swiped through an additional reader that doesn’t coincide with the transaction the card number may have been stolen.

#2 Select online shopping websites carefully. Phantom websites exist to collect personal and credit card information. They can appear online any time of the year, but the holidays are prime time. They imitate the look and feel of a legitimate website, and many simply copy the web code from well-known online retailers, right down to the names and logos. You may even order a product and get it. But now they have your card number. When searching for a product or service online, do business only with those you recognize. Established e-retailers are your safest bet.

#3 Beware of phishing and vishing. When you used your card, the skimmer may not have picked up the 4 digit CVV security code. You may receive a voicemail or an email requesting that data so the bad guy can complete a transaction.

#4 The most important tip of all is to watch your statements. This extra layer of protection requires special attention. If you check your email daily, you ought to be able to check your credit card statements daily, too, right? Once a week is sufficient and even once every two weeks is okay. Just be sure to refute any unauthorized withdrawals or transactions within the time limit stipulated by your bank. For most credit cards, it’s 60 days, and for debit cards the limit can be 30 days or less.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing credit and debit card fraud on CNBC.