From paying for goods and services from the comfort of your own home to avoiding the hassle of fumbling around with coins, online and cashless payments have made life a lot more convenient.
But this convenience also comes at a price.
Making payments more seamlessly and conveniently also means it’s now easier for fraudsters and scammers to take our money.
It’s probably the case that no one expects to be a target of, say, credit/debit card fraud, but it happens more often than you might expect.
There has been a lot of news about fraud in Singapore over the past year or so, and more recently, I’ve been a victim of credit card fraud myself.
In July, I received the credit card statement for my Citi Rewards card.
When I saw the total amount due for the statement, it was in line with how much I expected it to be, so I didn’t think much of it.
Anyway, I tend to only pay my bills about a week before the due date.
When my bill was soon to be due, I pulled up the statement to look through the transactions before making payment.
That’s when I discovered that there had been a transaction made on the card that I didn’t recognize – a trial for the video streaming platform Crunchyroll.
I felt suspicious about it for 2 reasons.
First, neither my partner nor myself use Crunchyroll, so it’s strange that I’d have a transaction with them.
Second, the transaction was made in USD, not SGD.
My Citi Rewards card is linked to my amaze card which I’d always use if I need to transact in foreign currencies due to their great conversion rates that come with no fees.
So the fact that a USD transaction was made directly on my Citi Rewards card tells me that it definitely wasn’t me who made the transaction.
I also looked through my expenses tracking app to confirm that I made no record of such a transaction, as well as my emails to confirm that I didn’t receive an email receipt of such a transaction.
By this point, I was 100% certain that it was a case of credit card fraud, and I ran a Google search of the fraudulent transaction’s description.
I saw countless articles reporting a similar case of fraud – apparently, it’s been ongoing for years and many people have experienced the same fraud.
After that, I proceeded to call Citibank’s hotline and notified them of this incident.
They informed me that there was actually another attempt to charge my card with the same transaction on that same day, but they had blocked it because they also suspected it to be a fraudulent transaction.
Coincidentally, that was exactly 1 month after the original fraudulent transaction – these scammers were trying to hit me again, probably thinking that I let it slide the last time.
Needless to say, I was thankful that Citibank was proactive in detecting such fraud and preventing them from making another transaction.
However, the customer service representative informed me that they still have to go through the investigation procedures regarding the fraudulent transaction.
They credited my card back for the fraudulent transaction for now so I don’t have to pay for it, but informed me that I may be asked to pay for it in the event that the investigation finds that it is not a case of fraud.
They said they will keep me updated about the result of this investigation by email, and I’m still awaiting the outcome.
During the call, they also helped me cancel my compromised Citi Rewards card and issued me a new one which I received 2 days later.
Tips To Protect Yourself
Credit or debit card fraud often occurs because your card information is compromised in one way or another.
So the following tips are meant to help you safeguard your card information and thereby protect you from fraud.
1: Minimize Physical Card Usage
It’s quite self-explanatory – the less often you bring out and use your physical card, the less chance there is for your card’s information to be compromised.
When you pay the bill after eating at a restaurant and leave your card in the tab for the staff to perform the transaction, there’s always a risk that your card’s information can be stolen.
Or even if you’re simply holding your card while waiting in line to pay for your shopping and groceries, someone in your vicinity may be able to see your card information.
Now that there are other types of contactless payment methods, there really isn’t much need to take out your physical card to make payments.
Using mobile payment methods like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay is not only more convenient but also reduces the risk of having your card information stolen.
2: Cut Up Old Cards
Every few years, you’ll find yourself disposing of old and/or expired cards.
When you do this, thoroughly destroy them by cutting them up – specifically, destroying the card’s chip and magnetic strip.
While you’re at it, you’ll probably want to cut up the card’s information as well in a way that it can’t be easily pieced back together.
This is to ensure that the card will not be useable if someone were to somehow get their hands on it after you’ve disposed of it.
This might not be too important in Singapore, but it’s something I do regardless for added precaution.
3: Update Your Mobile/Computer Software
Other than having our card information physically stolen, it’s also possible that they’re stolen virtually.
Old software is often more prone to cyber-attacks, so make sure that your mobile and computer software is always updated to the latest version to minimise cybersecurity risks.
4: Only Transact On Secure Websites
Whenever you make online payments, make sure you only do so on websites that are secure.
Secure websites use an HTTPS protocol rather than an HTTP protocol.
The ‘S’ stands for, you guessed it, secure, and it helps to encrypt the data so that your data is better protected.
This is something you definitely want to look out for when entering sensitive information on a website such as credit card or banking information.
You can identify secure websites with a lock symbol in front of the URL in the address bar of your browser.
You can read more about HTTPS and HTTP protocols here.
5: Only Transact Over Private Networks
The previous point was referring to private websites, but that’s not the only thing we should be cautious about.
The Wi-Fi network we connect to on our phones and desktops is also important – not all of them are the same.
Wi-Fi networks can be public or private.
Public networks are usually those that you’ll find in public areas like libraries, cafes, or airports that anyone can easily connect to.
Any information being transmitted via these networks is not secured and can be easily stolen.
Meanwhile, private networks require some information to be entered before a user can connect to it such as a password.
They are encrypted networks, which help to protect the data that is transmitted across.
You can read more about private and public Wi-Fi networks here.
Finally, make sure you don’t fall prey to any phishing attempts such as emails.
Entering sensitive information on links that you’ve clicked from phishing emails is a guaranteed way to have them stolen.
If you receive emails asking you to click on links, always be sure to preview the links by hovering over them before actually clicking them or opening them in a private browser.
If you’re suspicious of what the email is asking you to do, like enter your payment details to complete a payment, contact the company on their official website to confirm the details before proceeding.
Tips To Identify Credit Card Fraud
Even after doing everything you can to try and safeguard against fraud, you may still end up being a victim.
That’s why it’s also important to actively be on the lookout for fraudulent transactions.
Here are 2 things you can do.
1: Check Your Statement/Bank Transactions Regularly
The most obvious thing you can do is to check your credit card statements and/or your debit card transactions regularly.
It goes without saying that you should check your credit card statement every month, especially before you make a payment.
But there are definitely people who don’t do so.
And when I say check, I mean read-every-transaction-line-by-line kind of check, not skimming through it like you’re speed reading.
That’s because it only takes 1 transaction to go through for scammers to continuously try sucking money out of you.
As in my experience above, they attempted to make another transaction exactly 1 month after the first one.
And if you only detect it after a few months of paying for it, it might be harder to report it as a fraudulent transaction because the bank may think that you’ve been willingly paying for it all these months.
Personally, I check my transactions at least once a month – before paying my credit card bill.
Checking them more frequently is definitely better since you’ll be able to identify fraudulent transactions more quickly and resolve them.
This is especially so if you primarily use debit cards.
This is because, unlike credit cards where transactions are first paid by the bank, debit card transactions are paid for straight from your bank account.
In other words, in the case of credit card fraud, it’s the bank’s money getting stolen, not yours, so you haven’t actually lost any money.
Whereas for debit card fraud, your money is lost immediately, and it’s harder to retrieve that money.
So if you use debit cards, it’s wise to be more cautious.
2: Track Your Expenses
Tracking your expenses doesn’t directly help you identify fraudulent transactions, but rather it serves as a form of accounting for your expenses.
This is so that when you check your card transactions, you’ll know if any of them weren’t made by you since you’ve recorded your transactions.
Of course, this won’t be of any help if you don’t diligently track your expenses.
There are other benefits to tracking your expenses such as helping you save money.
So if you don’t already have this habit, I’d strongly recommend you to.
You can check out this post for some tips on getting started with tracking your expenses.
What To Do If You’re A Victim
If you’ve unfortunately been a victim of credit card fraud, but fortunately managed to identify it, what should you do?
1: Contact Your Bank
The first thing you should do is call your bank and notify them about the fraudulent transaction ASAP.
They’ll investigate the claim, cancel your card, and issue you a replacement one.
This will help to prevent further transactions from being made on your card.
If you’re using a credit card, you’ll most likely not need to pay for anything.
And if you’re using a debit card, your money is already lost, but the bank may or may not decide to reimburse your loss.
Either way, contacting the bank is your best and only chance to not lose any more money.
2: Change Your Passwords
If the fraudulent transaction was an unauthorized purchase on a platform you use (ie e-commerce site), change your password on the platform immediately.
It’s possible that your login credentials for that platform are compromised, so doing this can help to minimise any further attempts of fraud.
And if the password used for this platform is also used for other sites and apps, you should probably change those too for added precaution.
Anyone can be a victim of credit/debit card fraud.
Even if we do everything we can to safeguard against it, it can still happen, so we should always check our card and banking transactions to make sure there’s no suspicious activity.