How to Prevent Your Credit and Debit Cards from Being Cloned
Just a little vigilance can go a long way in preventing your credit card or debit card from being cloned. 
Just a little vigilance can go a long way in preventing your credit card or debit card from being cloned.  (Image: Liju Joseph/The Quint)

How to Prevent Your Credit and Debit Cards from Being Cloned

After the recent incident of an employee at a Burger King in Noida cloning debit cards, the focus is back on how secure your credit cards are and what you can do to ensure they don’t get misused. Last year, a similar incident took place with one of our colleagues at The Quint as well, where her ATM card was cloned and money withdrawn.

Here’s a list of best practices that will help prevent your credit or debit card from being misused.

1. Never let your card out of your sight

Always keep your card within your sight. 
Always keep your card within your sight. 
(Photo: Imgflip)

One of the biggest security risks is when you let your card out of your sight, especially in restaurants when paying the bill. The waiter takes it away to the billing desk, swipes it, and brings the charge slip back to you to sign. What’s to prevent him from swiping it through a card-cloning scanner on the way? Instead insist on the restaurant bringing a mobile point-of-sale device to your table for the payment or walk over to the billing desk and offer the card yourself.

2. Sign on the back of the card

Always remember to sign on the back of the card.
Always remember to sign on the back of the card.
(Photo: Imgflip)

When you get a new credit or debit card, remember to sign on the rear of the card. This will help a seller verify that the card being used belongs to you. It will help prevent fraud if a merchant is suspicious and asks the user to sign on the charge slip. The signatures on the slip and the card should match.

3. Insist on 'Chip' cards

Banks issue chip-based cards which are safer (not these chips!).
Banks issue chip-based cards which are safer (not these chips!).
(Photo: Imgflip)

Most banks now issue credit cards and debit cards with chips in them. These are more secure than the simple cards with a magnetic strip on the back. The chip-based cards require a PIN (personal index number) to be entered on the point-of-sale (POS) terminal. They are less likely to be cloned.

4. Don't share your PIN

Change your PIN frequently. 
Change your PIN frequently. 
(Photo: Imgflip)

Never share your PIN number with anyone. Many people often write down the PIN number on the card or give it out to a merchant to enter. Never do that. Also don’t use your birthday or car number as the PIN number. These would be fairly easy to crack or guess. Keep changing the number every few months.

5. Insist on two-step authentication for online transactions

Two-step authentication is safer. 
Two-step authentication is safer. 
(Photo: Imgflip)

India, in fact, has one of the safest environments for online transactions as banks insist on two-step authentication. This means that every time you enter your card details online, you will be sent a OTP (one time password) on your mobile phone. This is an additional layer of security to authenticate transactions. However, this can be bypassed if the fraudster knows your card’s PIN.

6. Use a low-value credit card for online shopping

If you shop online a lot and use credit cards for payments, it makes sense to ask for low credit limit on a specific card that you use only for this purpose. It reduces your risk of losing too much money in case of online fraud. One way to do this is to use a debit card of a bank account where you maintain just the minimum balance. Or you could ask your bank for a virtual credit card – a service offered by some banks, which masks the real card number and details.

7. Destroy your old receipts

Don’t just discard your old credit card charge slips and statements – destroy them. The details in your card statement could be used to commit fraud. Fraudsters could report a lost card, change your address and phone number and then get a duplicate card issued using the details.

8. Track all messages on your phone

Monitor all alerts from the bank. 
Monitor all alerts from the bank. 
(Photo: Imgflip)

Keep a close watch on your phone. Thanks to the two-step authentication system and SMS notifications from banks, most transaction alerts land up on your mobile phone. Be suspicious if your phone suddenly stops working and the SIM is disabled. This is another modus-operandi of fraudsters. They report a lost phone against your number and ask for a new SIM to be issued. Using that they can receive OTPs and banking alerts, so you would be oblivious to any fraud taking place, while figuring out why your phone is not working.

9. Don't use random ATMs

ATMs can also be used to clone or skim card data. Fraudsters attach a card reader-like device to the card reader of the ATM, which skims card information. Many also use a second ‘security’ camera to read PIN numbers entered on the keypad. Be wary of any unfamiliar devices at ATMs. Don’t use random ATMs to withdraw money and as far as possible stick to the ATM network of your bank.

10. Don't store your card information on random apps

Don’t store your credit card information on random shopping apps on your phone, although almost all apps ask you to do so. When you do shop online, uncheck the box that asks you to store the card details. It may be a tad inconvenient to enter the card information every time you shop, but it is safer.

(Participate in the second edition of The Quint's My Report Debate and win Rs 10,000. Write an essay on how to fix India and Pakistan's relationship. Submit now)

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