Messages to U.S. Citizens: Credit/Debit Card Security (December 24, 2013)
Message to U.S. Citizens: Credit and Debit Card Security
The U.S. Embassy has recently received reports of instances of credit/debit card theft at local businesses and fast food restaurants in Tegucigalpa. Credit cards and credit card numbers can be stolen easily, with disastrous results. Within hours, thieves can purchase thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise or “borrow” large sums of cash. Unfortunately, criminals target credit cards all the time. However, with a few prudent steps, you can make yourself a hard target for criminals and still enjoy the use of your credit card while in Honduras.
- When checking out at store registers, shield your credit card from the people around you. Someone might be looking over your shoulder to copy your number. Never let your card out of your sight as it may be copied or cloned.
- Keep track of your credit card receipts/monthly bills. These receipts/bills can reveal your credit card number to anyone who finds them. It is also a good idea to have a paper shredder in your home. It is less likely for a criminal to piece together receipt shredded receipt when they know the person next door probably did not take that extra step.
- Check your monthly billing statement to see if it includes purchases or transactions you did not make. Report these to the credit card company right away. Something that has become very helpful is to check with your credit card company to see if you can review your statement online. This means that within hours of your using your card, you see the transaction and can quickly spot additional transactions that you may not have authorized. If your credit card information is stolen, you will probably see the damages right away. Check your statement frequently.
- Make sure your transactions are accurate. Be on guard for dishonest merchants who might change your credit card slip after you sign it.
- Always total your charge slip before signing the credit card receipt. Don’t leave blank spaces where additional amounts could be added.
- Never sign a blank charge slip. This is difficult because it is a common practice in most hotels to take a blank impression of your card. What you can do is ask to see this impression, initial and date it on the corner of the charge slip. This serves two purposes: first, should there be any questions about the charges, you know this was the impression taken in your presence. Second, anyone contemplating using this information illegally, now knows you are mindful of who has your credit card number. They will look for an easier target.
- Always check your receipts against your billing statement. If you think a charge amount was changed, call your credit card company immediately.
Reporting Losses and Fraud
If you lose your credit or charge cards or if you realize they’ve been lost or stolen, do not panic. We understand that it is difficult to stay calm when you are looking at a $20,000.00 credit card statement with your name on it, but with a few steps you will quickly regain control and possibly give the credit card companies what they need to identify the person that did the damage.
The most important step is to immediately call the issuer(s). Many companies have toll-free numbers and 24-hour service to deal with such emergencies. By law, once you report the loss or theft, you have no further responsibility for unauthorized charges. It is important to understand this, as long as you demonstrate to the bank that you are being diligent about regaining control of your credit account you are not liable. In any event, you maximum liability under federal law is $50 per card. If you suspect fraud, you may be asked to sign a statement under oath that you did not make the purchase(s) in question.
If you have further questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact the American Citizen Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy:
2238-5114 ext 4400