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Ho! Ho! No! Watch out for holiday bank card theft

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Theft of your credit or debit card information can pull the happy right out of the holidays. A local woman recently discovered a $500 charge on her debit card to a shop in Britain. "There are people out there with computer programs that just run numbers until they get a hit. Then they use it until there is nothing left in the account," one local bank advised.
There is not much you can do about the computer hackers, but everyone should exercise care in dealing with their credit and debit cards.
Financial experts advise you to treat your cards like cash. Know how much you have spent and how much is left in your account. Don't leave the cards lying around where anyone can see them.
Keep your card numbers, pin numbers and passwords confidential. "Don't write the pin number on the card!" our bank advised.
Sign up your new cards as soon as they arrive and cut up the old cards when they expire. Use permanent ink to sign the back of the card as soon as you receive it.
When you make a purchase in a store, pay attention while your card is processed. Check the card when it is returned to you to make sure it is yours and has not been tampered with.
Take the time to total your charge slip before signing it, since blank spaces invite criminals to add additional amounts.
Always keep your receipts until you get your card or bank statement so that you can compare them for accuracy.
"A lot of people don't really check their statements," our banker advised. "It's important to look at every item in the statement and to check it monthly. Checking how much is in your account at the ATM is not good enough," she added.
Don't delay notifying your card issuer immediately if you find any unfamiliar transactions posted on your statement. Because your statements contain important information, keep them in a safe place.
If you are planning a trip out of the country, inform the card issuer of your travel dates.
Notify the card issuer of any change of address immediately, so new cards and statements are not sent to the old mailing address.
Inform the card issuer immediately if your card is stolen or lost. Always keep card issuer contact numbers handy. Never provide your Social Security and credit card information to anyone unless you initiated the call.
Our local bank also advised us to be extra cautious when using high-traffic ATMs.
"And if making purchases on-line, deal with well known companies and check for a security lock symbol on their website," the bank said.
Taking these precautions won't guarantee you won't be the victim of financial theft, but it will decrease your chances.