21 October 2011
As we head into the Christmas shopping season, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Bankers' Association (ABA), and Abacus, the industry body for mutual banking institutions, are reminding consumers about protecting their credit and debit cards when spending in the stores or online.
Consumers are being encouraged to take some basic safety precautions and to protect their personal information, especially when shopping online.
There are some simple tips to help shoppers reduce the risk of fraud and to protect themselves from unwanted interference. (See below)
Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan, National Manager of the AFP's High Tech Crime Operations said, "All consumers should be aware that the use of internet technology can allow virtual strangers to obtain large amounts of personal information relating to a wide range of personal activities."
"Common sense is the key when it comes to shopping. As a rule, it is recommended you apply common sense to any shopping activity either on or offline. Particularly at this time of the year when people are looking for a bargain, if an offer looks too good to be true, it usually is, and may be a hoax or scam."
"Small business owners also need to be vigilant with transactional safety, and consider:
- the physical security of their merchant services;
- potential vulnerabilities in their business information systems; and
- the security of any online presence including business web pages and online transaction systems."
Steven Münchenberg, Chief Executive of the ABA, said: "Before proceeding to the online cash register, it's important that you do some research on the merchant, so that you can be confident that you are transacting with a business that you can trust and a business that will protect your personal information, including your credit or debit card details."
Louise Petschler, Chief Executive of Abacus – Australian Mutuals, said: "When buying online, sometimes businesses request large amounts of information they don't need, so think about limiting the amount of information before providing it. Never send your credit card number by email. Emails are not secure."
Banks and mutual banking institutions like credit unions, building societies and mutual banks, will be playing their part to protect cardholders by monitoring and protecting accounts if they identify any suspicious transactions.
Banks and mutual banking institutions have computer systems which monitor and detect fraudulent transactions, even before a customer may notice anything odd on their account. When there are transactions on your card that differ considerably from any style of shopping which you have done before, banks notice and they'll call you to check that's it's really you doing the shopping.
That's why it's important for your financial institution to have your up-to-date contact numbers – mobile, work and home phone numbers. They are most likely to contact a customer if you take your card overseas or interstate and you're not a regular traveller.
Help them by informing your bank or mutual of travel plans and providing phone numbers where you can be contacted while you're away.
If fraud is occurring on your account, then generally banks and mutuals will block the card to prevent any more spending and they will send you a new card. They may have to act very fast in such cases and if they cannot reach you, they may block your card anyway to protect your account. So it's important they always have your most current contact details especially if you are travelling overseas so they can contact you.
- DO guard your PIN and Internet banking passwords
Don't tell anyone your PIN or confidential Internet banking passwords or logon. Don't keep a record of the PIN or Internet banking passwords anywhere near your credit or debit card. Be aware that there is no reason to provide your PIN or passwords to anyone under any circumstances, including a telephone call purportedly from your banking institution. Only use the PIN for electronic transactions, don't use it for other purposes, for example your video store password, which you repeat aloud to the salesperson.
- DO always check your statements
Always check your card statements promptly and reconcile them to your purchase slips. It is important that you immediately advise your bank or card issuer of any unauthorised activity.
- DO maintain up-to-date anti-virus and firewall software that is obtained from a reputable source
Security software will help protect your computer from viruses, worms and trojans. These are malicious programs, often carried in something that looks harmless such as an email or game, but, in fact, can contain a program that allows an intruder to access your computer without your knowledge.
- DO provide your bank with telephone contacts and travel plans
It's important for your banking institution to have up-to-date phone numbers on their systems in case they need to contact you to discuss fraudulent activity on your account. Inform the bank of changes to your mobile, work or home phone numbers. Provide the bank with details of your trip plans before you go overseas as well as a contact phone number where bank staff can reach you overseas.
- DO keep a record of your credit and debit card information in a safe place
If your card is lost or stolen, the faster you are able to provide your banking institution with details of the card, the better. Banks and mutuals provide emergency phone numbers to call to report the loss – keep these numbers handy.
- DO make sure your card is returned by the salesperson
Make it a priority to get your card back after completing a purchase. Sometimes cards are intentionally retained by salespeople in order to later commit fraud.
- DO use strong passwords and limit the amount of personal information you put online
Don't make it easy for criminals to guess your password and do not provide information to people that you don't know or don't trust.
- DO secure your card
Make sure you know where your card is located at all times. Make sure it's secure to minimise the risk of theft. If you are expecting a card to be delivered in the mail, ensure your letterbox can be locked and that you check your letterbox regularly for the card's arrival. If your card does not arrive within a reasonable time of you ordering the card or being advised by your bank that a card is being sent to you, advise your banking institution.
- DO review your card limit
You may wish to lower your credit card limit which would prevent a criminal spending more than the determined amount if the card was ever lost or stolen. You need to balance this decision with ensuring your card limit is appropriate to your spending needs.
- DO be alert for suspicious activity around ATMs or EFTPOS
When entering your PIN at the ATM or EFTPOS machine, look around to see that no-one is watching. 'Shoulder surfing' usually happens at ATMs or public phones. Criminals may watch you from a nearby location, or behind you in a queue, as you key in your PIN. They may also listen in on your conversation if you give your credit card number over the phone, for example, when making a hotel reservation or booking a rental car.
Be aware if there is a group of individuals around the ATM acting suspiciously. If you see a device that doesn't look part of the normal ATM operation do not remove it. Keep a reasonable distance and telephone police. If you are suspicious for any reason, contact your banking institution or the police and await further instruction. Do not put yourself at risk.
- DON'T ever let your card out of your sight
Card skimming occurs when a fraudster skims your card through a device that records the information stored on that card. The fraudster then downloads that information onto a fake card, and will start using it as a counterfeit card. The safest way to avoid card fraud is to never let your card leave your sight.
For more information, please contact:
Senior Adviser - Media, Public Affairs
(02) 8299 9024; 0423 843 790;