Chances are you’re probably already shredding documents like your bank and credit card statements before discarding them. You might even be taking the extra step of shredding things like credit card applications and other pieces of mail you receive since they contain personal information, such as your address. But are you shredding old credit cards when you get a replacement card?
If you aren’t, you probably should.
“With the proliferation of data breaches, phishing scams and ID theft, consumers should do everything possible to protect themselves and minimize risk,” said Thomas Nitzsche, media relations manager for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions.
And that includes your old credit cards (it’s even a good idea for card accounts you’ve closed). That’s because the two most important components of preventing identity theft and unauthorized charges on your accounts are one, securing your sensitive information, and two, reviewing your financial statements regularly.
“Not completely destroying a credit card puts you at risk for ‘dumpster divers’ retrieving your card information and using it fraudulently,” Nitzsche said. “The best way to securely dispose of an old credit card is to shred it and place it in a secure locked recycling bin — such as a locked workplace data destruction service bin.”
Of course, your credit card protects you from fraudulent charges, but you still have to report those suspect charges within a reasonable timeframe. Law dictates that you’re only liable for up to $50 of unauthorized activity, no matter when you report it. And if your card wasn’t present in the unauthorized transaction, you have zero liability. Still, even if you’re regularly checking your statements, it can be easy to overlook small amounts charged over a long period of time. This form of unauthorized use is known as “cramming.”
“Most credit card issuers will only go back and remove the charges for a certain number of months, so it is important to be vigilant,” Nitzsche said.
With all the capabilities credit card thieves have, it’s unrealistic to expect you can prevent theft. Beyond shredding your credit cards, you’ll want to take other precautions, like using secure payment websites, never storing payment information in your web browser and only enabling NFC or RFID payment at the moment of a transaction. Beyond that, you’ll have to watch out for signs of credit card fraud.
You can check your account activity routinely — even daily — or set up transactional monitoring with your bank or credit card issuer. You’ll also want to check your credit scores for sudden changes (it could be a sign someone ran up your credit card balance without your permission) and review your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com for other kinds of fraud that can be trickier to detect, like identity theft. To get updates on your credit standing, you can see two of your free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.