4 Credit Cards With Great Security Features

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Thieves lurk in the physical and virtual world, looking for ways to access your credit card number or commit identity theft. Whether you shop online or in brick-and-mortar stores, it’s wise to take steps to protect yourself against fraud.

Credit card companies have many tools to help combat credit card fraud, and sometimes offer additional security features to protect against identity theft.

Here are four credit cards with great security features.

1. Discover it Cash Back

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in quarterly rotating categories like gas stations or restaurants, 1% cash back on everything else

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Signup Bonus: Discover will match the cash back you earn in the first year.

Annual Fee:

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): , then

Why We Picked It: Discover’s Freeze it feature gives you peace of mind if you’ve lost track of your card.

Security Features: With Freeze it, cardholders can freeze their card within seconds using Discover’s website or mobile app. This way, if you can’t locate your card, you can freeze it and look around before reporting it lost or stolen. If your card is misplaced, Discover offers free overnight card replacement. Cardholders also won’t be held liable for any unauthorized purchases.

Drawbacks: To maximize cash back, you’ll have to do the work of activating and tracking rotating purchase categories.

2. Blue Cash Everyday from American Express

Rewards: 3% cash back on up to $6,000 spent at supermarkets, 2% cash back at gas stations and select department stores, 1% cash back on everything else

Welcome Offer: $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card membership

Annual Fee:
$0

APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases , then 13.99%-23.99% Variable
See Rates and Fees

Why We Picked It: Cardholders can control available spending for authorized users.

Security Features: If you have multiple cards for authorized users on your account, you can set a spending limit for each card’s billing period. That way, your authorized user (or a conniving friend) can’t rack up a huge balance. American Express won’t hold you accountable for any unauthorized charges.

Drawbacks: If you don’t spend a lot at supermarkets or gas stations, you may want to look for another cash back card.

3. Citi ThankYou Preferred

Rewards: Two points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment, one point per dollar spent on everything else

Signup Bonus: 15,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months

Annual Fee: $0

APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers and then 15.24% – 25.24% (Variable) ongoing APR.

Why We Picked It: Citi has an impressive range of security features that help you fight fraud and identity theft. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)

Security Features: If your credit card is lost or stolen, Citi will send you a new card for free and provide an emergency cash advance. To protect you online, Citi can issue temporary credit card numbers for secure online purchases. Finally, if you become the victim of identity theft, a Citi specialist will help you contact TransUnion to put a fraud alert on your credit reports and help you complete a police report. Cardholders aren’t held liable for any unauthorized purchase.

Drawbacks: If you use your credit card for “meat and potatoes” spending and rarely use it on a night out, this card won’t deliver as much value.

4. Bank Americard Credit Card

Rewards: None

Signup Bonus: None

Annual Fee: None

APR: 0% intro rate for 15 months, then variable 12.74% to 22.74%

Why We Picked It: Online shopping is safer with Bank of America’s ShopSafe service.

Security Features: With ShopSafe, you can receive temporary credit card numbers to safely shop online. If abnormal spending patterns are detected, Bank of America will block the card’s use and contact you to discuss potential fraudulent activity. You’ll never be held accountable for unauthorized transactions.

Drawbacks: This is a very basic card without any rewards to speak of.

Choosing a Card With Strong Security Features

Federal law states that you can’t be held accountable for more than $50 in unauthorized purchases if your card is stolen. But cardholders concerned with security should look for card issuers that offer zero liability for unauthorized charges.

To further protect yourself, consider cards that go above and beyond in the realm of security and protect you in areas where you may be particularly vulnerable.

If you frequently shop online, you may want a card that offers temporary credit card numbers for limited time use, which stops digital thieves from gaining access to your real card number. If you tend to misplace things and you’re scared of losing your card, you may want a card that lets you easily freeze all activity.

Of course, if your only credit card requirement is security, you should pick a card with the most enhanced protections. But if you also want a card that rewards spending with points or cash back, you’ll want to consider your spending habits and how a card can reward your purchasing behavior.

What Is Required to Get a Card With Security Protections?

Any legitimate credit card should have some security features. Cards with strong security could be available for consumers with credit ranging from poor to excellent. No matter what card you choose, you should know your credit score ahead of time to gauge your chances of approval. Before you apply, you can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Discover it, Blue Cash Everyday from American Express and Citi ThankYou Preferred credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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Source: credit.com

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Start adding tradelines on your credit reports by reporting your rent and utilities.

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UP TO $165 ACTUAL
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Can Your Credit Score Save You Money on a New Car?

Generally, the credit bureaus consider anything over 670 a good credit score.

If your score is 671 or higher, you’re doing fairly well. The best credit score and the highest credit score possible is 850 for both FICO® and VantageScore models. FICO considers a score between 800 and 850 to be “exceptional,” while VantageScore considers a score above 780 to be “excellent.” It’s possible to get an 850 credit score, but it’s tough to achieve.

In This Piece

FICO and VantageScore Credit Score Charts
What Credit Scores Mean
Do Lenders Prefer FICO or VantageScore
What Makes a Good Credit Score
What Else Do Lenders Consider
How to Get Your Credit Scores
How to Improve Your Score


Credit Score Charts for FICO and VantageScore

Credit scores calculated using the FICO or VantageScore 3.0 scoring models range from 300 to 850. Those scores are broken down into five categories, though the breakdowns differ slightly.

For FICO, a good credit score is 670 or higher; a score above 800 is considered exceptional. For VantageScore 3.0, a good score is 661 or higher, and a score of 781 to 850 is excellent.

On the flip side, FICO scores below 670 fall into the fair and poor range, while VantageScore 3.0 scores below 660 are considered fair, poor, or very poor.

FICO and VantageScore aren’t the only credit scoring models. However, they are the most commonly used models and the ones used by the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Some lenders even have their own scoring models. But most lenders and credit card companies use FICO scores or VantageScores.

>> Learn more about how Vantage Score compares to FICO.

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What Do Credit Scores Mean?

The three-digit numbers called credit scores are how the scoring institutions break down your credit profile. That number is calculated based on the information in your credit report at a credit bureau. Each bureau has its own file, which explains why your score might differ from one scoring institution to the next. Your file is a picture of how you’ve used credit to date.

Your score and where it falls tells lenders and credit card issuers how likely you are to pay off a loan, pay off a credit card, make late payments, and default on payments. In other words, it tells them if you’re an acceptable risk and if they should approve you for a loan or credit card.

A low score doesn’t necessarily mean lenders won’t give you a loan or card. Instead, it can mean they do so at a higher interest rate and with inferior loan terms. In other words, to offset the risk you pose, they charge you more interest or a higher annual fee.

For example, if you’re buying a $300,000 house with a 30-year fixed mortgage and you have good credit, you can end up paying around $94,000 less for that house over the life of the loan than if you had bad credit.*

Scores are also used by landlords, cell phone companies, and even employers to check how risky you are.

Do Lenders Prefer a Good VantageScore Score Over a Good FICO Credit Score?

Lenders don’t necessarily prefer one score over the other. It’s likely, though, that a given lender uses only one credit scoring institution.

FICO reports that 90% of the top US lenders use FICO scores when deciding whether to loan money to an applicant. On the other hand, VantageScore states that between July 2018 and June 2019, approximately 12.3 billion VantageScore credit scores were used.

The VantageScore model offers these advantages to lenders and consumers:

  • It was developed by the three major credit bureaus to offer a model across all bureaus that’s more consistent than FICO.
  • It calculates scores for more people by giving a score to people with a shorter credit history.

Both models are consistent enough that knowing where you stand in one gives you a reliable indication of your credit in general.

What Makes a Good Credit Score?

The same primary considerations go into calculating VantageScore credit scores and FICO credit scores:

Payment History

A history of late and missed payments for either scoring model lowers your credit score more than any other factor.

When determining your score, the FICO and VantageScore scoring models look at how recently you missed a payment or were late, how many accounts you were late on, and how many total payments on each account were missing or late.

Credit Utilization Ratio

Your credit utilization ratio is the amount of credit you’ve used divided by your total available credit limit. For example, if you have credit cards with a combined credit limit of $8,000 and balances of $3,000, your credit utilization ratio is 37.5%.

A good credit score requires a credit utilization ratio of 30% or less, although 10% or less is ideal.

Credit Age

Your credit age is how long you’ve used credit. More specifically, the length of your credit history is how long your credit accounts have been reported open, and your credit age is the average of how long all of your accounts have been open.

Say your oldest account was closed and fell off your file, and the next oldest account is 10 years “younger” than the account that fell off. Now, instead of showing how long you’ve actually used credit overall, credit files may show the age of the oldest account on file and your score may decrease.

To maintain a high credit age, keep at least one account on your credit file that is at least six months old. As you grow older, it should be easier to maintain a higher credit score as your accounts continue to grow in credit age.

Account Mix

Account mix is how many installment accounts and revolving accounts you have.

  • Installment accounts are loans—such as mortgages, car loans, or personal loans—with a fixed monthly payment for a specific term (number of months or years).
  • Revolving accounts are credit cards and credit lines with a credit limit that you can charge against.

Lenders want to see you can handle both types of accounts, so a good mix of the two makes for a better credit score.

Credit Inquiries

Hard inquiries happen when a lender looks at your credit report because you’ve applied for credit. A hard inquiry affects your credit score—lowering it by 5 to 10 points. The inquiry can stay on your credit report for up to two years, but it will impact your score for only 12 months. Though hard inquiries make up only 10% of your score, try to minimize credit inquiries to maximize your score.

When you need an auto loan or mortgage, it’s normal to shop around to find the best rates. Depending on the scoring model used, if you do your loan shopping in a 14- to 45-day span, the inquiries can be lumped into a single inquiry and affect your score less. FICO score models allow 45 days. On the other hand, the VantageScore model uses only a 14-day span.

Soft inquiries don’t affect your credits score.

Is a Credit Score the Only Thing Lenders Consider?

Lenders look at more than credit scores. The score plays a large factor, but so does your full credit report—sometimes from one bureau, sometimes from all three. Lenders may also look at your annual income and your debt-to-income ratio or overall debt.

Your debt-to-income ratio is calculated by dividing the total recurring monthly debt you have by your gross monthly income. This determines the percentage of debt you have compared to your income.

Credit card issuers and lenders may also look at how many reported delinquencies you have, how many hard inquiries were added to your credit file, your overall credit card utilization rate, your annual income, and your credit history’s health.

How Do I Get My Credit Scores?

You can get your full credit report from each credit bureau free once a year from AnnualCreditReports.com. Through April 2022, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each bureau weekly to help protect your financial health during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Those reports don’t include your credit score.

Most online options for viewing your credit score—free or paid—are limited to one or two scores. ExtraCredit from Credit.com takes it twenty-six steps further by offering you 28 of your FICO scores from all three major credit bureaus. When you sign up for an ExtraCredit account, you can also earn money when you get approved for select offers, monitor your accounts with $1 million identity theft insurance, and get exclusive discounts on credit repair services. All for less than $25 a month.

If you’re not ready for ExtraCredit, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card offers you your Experian VantageScore 3.0 credit score for free for life.

What if My Credit Score Is Less Than Good?

Now that you know what’s a good credit score, it’s crucial to act on yours. If your credit is fair or poor, find out why. Then you can address the factors and work to improve your score.

Do you want to boost your credit profile? Our new ExtraCredit Build It feature can help. ExtraCredit identifies rent and utility bills you’re already paying and adds them to your credit reports as new tradelines. This allows the credit bureaus to see additional payment information from you, which can help build your credit profile.

*Assuming someone with poor credit (620–639) gets a 30-year fixed-rate loan at 4.03% APR compared to someone with excellent credit (760+) getting a 2.441% APR. Interest for the borrower with poor credit would total $217,478. Interest for the borrower with excellent credit would total $123,425. The difference of $94,053 is based on calculations made on 9/30/20 from https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/calculators/loan-savings-calculator/.


Source: credit.com

Consumer Watchdog Announces Largest Discriminatory Auto Lending Case Ever

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REPORTS FROM ALL
THREE BUREAUS

See your monthly Experian, Equifax and TransUnion reports. Lenders have access to all three, you should too.

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monthly updates and status alerts

REPORT YOUR RENT
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Start adding tradelines on your credit reports by reporting your rent and utilities.

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PROACTIVE ID
PROTECTION

Feel safe with dark web alerts, 24/7 identity monitoring and $1 million in ID theft insurance.

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Maximize your credit score

UP TO $165 ACTUAL
CASH REWARDS

With ExtraCredit, get cash rewards when you are approved for select offers

Learn more >>

monthly updates and status alerts

$24.99/MONTH
CREDIT REPAIR
DISCOUNT

Work to repair your credit with an exclusive discount from one of the leaders in credit repair. Not available in Oregon.

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U.S. Bank Introduces Mobile Location Services as Customers Gear Up for Holiday Travel

free credit score

28 FICO® SCORES

One score is not enough. See what lenders actually see with 28 different FICO® Scores.

Learn more >>

Maximize your credit score

REPORTS FROM ALL
THREE BUREAUS

See your monthly Experian, Equifax and TransUnion reports. Lenders have access to all three, you should too.

Learn more >>

monthly updates and status alerts

REPORT YOUR RENT
& UTILITIES

Start adding tradelines on your credit reports by reporting your rent and utilities.

Learn more >>

free credit score

PROACTIVE ID
PROTECTION

Feel safe with dark web alerts, 24/7 identity monitoring and $1 million in ID theft insurance.

Learn more >>

Maximize your credit score

UP TO $165 ACTUAL
CASH REWARDS

With ExtraCredit, get cash rewards when you are approved for select offers

Learn more >>

monthly updates and status alerts

$24.99/MONTH
CREDIT REPAIR
DISCOUNT

Work to repair your credit with an exclusive discount from one of the leaders in credit repair. Not available in Oregon.

Learn more >>

Source: credit.com

4 Reasons Paying for College With a Credit Card Is a Terrible Idea

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Credit card offers and promotions are everywhere. All those rewards are tempting and can get you thinking of ways to get the most out of your credit card.

With the high cost of college tuition, you might be wondering if you can use a credit card to pay for school and get rewards. But before handing over your card, you should know there are significant risks involved.

4 Issues to Consider Before Using a Credit Card to Pay for College

It seems like a great idea: If you earn 1% cash back on all purchases and use your card to pay a $10,000 tuition bill, you’ll get $100 in rewards. However, the reality isn’t that simple.

Dr. Robert Johnson, president and CEO of the American College of Financial Services, believes there’s few, if any, advantages to using a credit card for your education.

“I think it’s dangerous for students to use credit cards for routine expenses,” he said.

That’s because credit cards are significantly different from other forms of debt, such as student loans. Relying on a credit card to pay for your tuition and fees can cause problems later on. Watch out for these four issues.

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1. Sky-High Interest Rates

Some student loans have an interest rate as low as 4.45%. In late 2017, credit cards had an average interest rate of 13.16%, according to the Federal Reserve. If you have poor credit or don’t have an established credit history, you could face interest rates as high as 25.00% for a credit card. That difference in interest rate is significant.

“Credit cards are riskier because the interest rates are substantially higher and because they’re so easy to use,” said Dr. Johnson. “One must make a deliberate and purposeful decision to take out a student loan. It’s so easy for someone to simply take out a credit card and incur high-interest-rate debt without thinking through the ramifications.”

Over time, your credit-card balance can balloon. You could end up paying far more than you originally borrowed.

“Credit-card debt is the highest-interest-rate debt and is very difficult to extinguish if the balances get large,” said Dr. Johnson.

If you think you can avoid paying high interest fees by paying off the debt quickly, make sure you have a concrete repayment plan. The average cardholder has a balance of over $4,000. With college costs added on top of that, you could end up paying thousands more. Once you get into credit-card debt, it can be tough digging yourself out.

2. Fees Might Negate the Rewards

You might be able to earn rewards for charging your tuition, but you could end up paying more than the reward is worth in fees.

Schools charge an average 2.62% processing fee, according to a 2016 CreditCards.com survey. That means a $10,000 charge to pay for school would add $262 to your bill. That’s more than double what you’d earn in cash-back rewards and would make college even more expensive.

3. Fewer Repayment Options

Beyond high interest rates, credit cards have more limited repayment options compared to federal and private student loans.

With student loans, you typically have a grace period. You don’t have to make payments on your loans until six months after graduation. If you experience financial hardship and have federal student loans, you can postpone payments or even qualify for a reduced payment with an income-driven repayment plan. With a credit card, you don’t have those benefits.

If you use a credit card to pay for college, you’ll have to start making payments right away, even while you’re still in school. If you lose your job or face an unexpected emergency, you still have to keep up with your payments or risk wrecking your credit history. You can quickly end up over your head.

“Credit-card debt limits their flexibility once they graduate, as their earnings go toward trying to extinguish debt,” said Dr. Johnson.

4. Effect on Your Credit Score

Your credit history can have a significant impact on your life. A poor credit score can impact you in many ways, from applying for an apartment to job hunting.

Your FICO credit score is determined by a range of factors. One of the most important is your credit utilization. Accounting for 30% of your score, your credit utilization is how much of your available credit you use. The more you use, the more it hurts your credit report. For example, if you have a $10,000 limit, charging $2,000 will leave you with a better score than charging $9,000.

The problem with using a credit card to pay for college is that it raises your credit utilization. A single semester can cost thousands, eating up a huge chunk of your available credit. If you can’t afford to pay off the card right away and carry a balance, it can take years to get rid of it, lowering your credit score.

If you need to buy a car or want to purchase a home, a poor credit score can cause you to pay higher interest rates or not be approved at all.

Be Smart About Paying for School

If you’re going to school but don’t qualify for federal loans, or if you’ve exhausted all of the financial aid the government offers, there are safer options than using a credit card to pay for tuition.

Private student loans are more expensive than federal loans. But both have much lower rates than credit cards. Many loan servicers also offer important benefits, such as a grace period after graduation and alternative payment options. Student loans can be a much better tool for paying for school compared to your Visa.

If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

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I Tried to Buy a Fake Puppy Online, & Here’s What Happened

I knew going into this adventure that I was dealing with a scam artist who was trying to cheat people out of their money by tugging at their puppy-loving heartstrings. See, I’d written a piece about this scam just a couple of weeks ago after a woman in San Diego almost fell prey to it.

While researching that story, I decided to send a text to the phone number the scammers had used in multiple eBay ads, saying they had adorable puppies named Roxy, Ricky, Rose and Tina (they had ads for at least Old English Sheepdogs and Boxers, all by these names, and were advertising them in San Diego, Baltimore and possibly other areas). The fraudulent sellers had already pulled the ads from eBay after their con was spotted by the woman in San Diego, but a few days after I sent my text inquiring if the pups were still available, I got a response.

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Here’s how it went:

puppy-scam1

Now, as I said, I already knew these folks weren’t on the pup up-and-up. I knew they were going to try to con me out of my money. The ridiculously low price for the “AKC-registered” puppies — just $320 each — was the first clue this wasn’t going to be a legit transaction.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

There were more clues in their text. First, “please confirm the breed.” These folks were advertising that they had to get rid of their beloved puppies because of a recent move (thus the deep discount), not because they were breeders. Second, “just mail you with pictures.” Their English was a little faulty, which isn’t always an indicator in and of itself, but it’s something to watch for if you’re suspicious of an online transaction, as a lot of these folks operate from outside the country and English is not their first language.

Their first email came with a dozen or so pictures of the puppies, plus some questions so they’d know if I’d be a good caregiver. And, of course, the language issues continued.

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And, to get me emotionally connected, they asked me some more or less legitimate-seeming questions:

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After I answered all the questions and apparently passed muster for being able to provide a loving home, the scammers said they were arranging shipment of the pups, their toys, all their paperwork, etc., and they asked me to wire them the money through Western Union so they could get that process started:Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 11.38.13 AMBingo. They wanted me to transfer the money to them in a way that is not easily traceable and for which I would have no recourse if they didn’t deliver the pups. As Western Union says on its website, “Western Union money transfer is the best way to send money to people you know and trust.”

But not strangers. Never, ever strangers. Why?

“If you send money to someone you do not know, you run the risk of fraud. Be cautious when a stranger asks you to send money,” the Western Union warning continues. “If you are sending money to a stranger or unknown person requires you to pay this way for goods or services before their delivery (especially offers on the Internet), for transport or insurance, payments as deposit to secure a lease for housing which you have not seen, allow payment of winnings in a lottery or betting, you run the risk of losing money. If still such a transfer is sent, you do so entirely at your own risk. Western Union is not responsible for the correct and proper delivery of goods or services paid through transfers under the brand Western Union.”

I told the “seller” via email that I was uncomfortable doing a cash transfer, but I’d be happy to pick up the puppies personally since I lived so close to Baltimore (which I don’t, actually). They said they had to leave at 4 p.m., but that they’d be happy to let me pick up the puppies at their address that didn’t actually exist. I feigned ignorance of that fact and told them I’d be driving to them soon. Of course, when I “arrived” they were nowhere to be found.

puppy-scam

And, not surprisingly, almost a week later, I’m still waiting.

The bottom line is, never, ever give cash to an online seller for goods undelivered. Always use websites you trust, and never give out any personal information that isn’t a matter of public record. And even then, be wary. Also, if you ever do meet someone to exchange goods, it’s safest to take someone with you and let at least one other person know where you will be and what time you should return.

Fortunately for the people who fall for these kinds of cash-transfer scams, they’re most likely only out the cash they gave away, and it won’t impact their credit. Where the really serious damage from scams can occur is when your identity is stolen or your credit cards are compromised.

If you think you may have fallen for a scam that has compromised your bank or credit card accounts, it’s a good idea to check your financial accounts, credit reports and credit scores frequently for any signs of trouble. Transactions you don’t recognize, unfamiliar entries on your credit report and sudden changes in credit scores are signs of fraud to be immediately addressed. You can check your financial information through your bank or credit union’s online tools. You can keep an eye on your credit by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com and requesting a copy of your free credit reports by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Image: Dusko Jovic

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Source: credit.com

15 Tips to Protect Your Credit While Traveling

It’s finally time to go on that vacation you’ve waited for all year. Whether you’re headed on a relaxing trip or a wild adventure, your credit cards will be the last thing on your mind. While you’re preparing for your big trip, figuring out how to protect credit your cards while traveling should be on your to-do list.

Thieves and credit scams are becoming a bigger threat, and travelers unknowingly open themselves up to risk, such as credit card fraud, all the time. But don’t worry. When you’re prepared, you can enjoy your travel plans stress-free. Here are a few things you can do to protect your credit—and your identity—the next time you hit the road.

Take Just What You Need

This doesn’t just apply to your suitcase—it applies to your wallet, too. There’s no need to bring all of your credit cards with you when you travel. If you do, you’re opening yourself to additional theft or loss potential. Pick two cards while you’re traveling, in case one gets compromised. While you’re out and about during your vacation, try to bring just one card. You can leave the other in a secure place in your hotel room, like the hotel safe.

Credit vs. Debit—Which One to Choose?

There are a few misconceptions about the safety of credit cards verses debit cards. While there’s a common misconception that credit is safer than debit, the reality is that both your credit and debit card offer nearly the same security.

Both credit cards and debit cards offer protection against fraudulent purchases. And if you have either a Mastercard or Visa, you’re in luck—both offer zero fraud liability. So, whether you favor your credit card or debit card, both are great options for traveling. Just make sure to keep an eye on those foreign transaction fees.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

Keep an Eye on Your Cards

This might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to leave your cards lying around. Make sure that you’re diligent—don’t leave your wallet unattended while you travel. Try to avoid keeping your wallet in a coat pocket, in a purse or backpack hung over a chair, etc. The last thing you want is to reach for your credit card, only to discover that it was stolen.

Don’t Take a Vacation from Monitoring Card Activity

Just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean you can take a break from checking your card activity. Keeping an eye on your activity will help you catch any fraudulent activity right away. Make sure to use good judgment when checking your credit card activity.

If you’re logging into your accounts via public wi-fi, make sure it’s secure, and always log out of your accounts on whatever device you’re using. You can also call your credit card company for a list of recent charges to avoid going online.

Sign Up for Text Alerts

Many credit and debit cards offer text alert options to alert you each time a charge is made, or to alert you of suspicious activity. It might be a good idea to activate this option as an extra layer of safety before you travel.

Keep Your Daily Cash Withdrawals Low

If you’re bringing along a card that has a high daily cash-out limit, consider lowering it. That way, if your card is compromised or stolen while you travel, you will have some control over the amount of cash a thief can drain from your account.

Read Your Receipts

This is a good idea whether you’re traveling or just using your card at home. Never sign a receipt before reviewing the charges. Once a receipt bears your signature it can be difficult to dispute those charges–which could potentially put you at financial risk.

Write Down Important Information

It’s always a good idea to have a plan in place for the worst-case scenario. Writing down the phone numbers and account numbers of your credit cards is a good idea in the event your cards or phone are stolen. Keep the written information in a safe place, such as a deposit box in your room, so that you can still contact your card companies and/or bank to alert them if an issue arises.

If you have a Visa or Mastercard, there’s some good news. They both offer emergency services where cardholders can get cash advances or emergency replacement cards.

Be Alert When Using an ATM

Whenever you hit the ATM on your journey, keep your eyes open. Pick an ATM in a safe, public location and take note of anyone suspicious around you before you make a withdrawal. ATMs that are in a secluded area are easy targets for theft. Savvy thieves can use a credit card skimmer in seconds to obtain your card information and commit fraud.

Ask About Security

Wherever you’re staying, whether it’s in a hotel or an Airbnb, ask the owner or manager how to secure their Wi-Fi and checkout systems are before using them. If they can’t guarantee a secure system, don’t take any chances.

Remember That Money is King

If you’re uncomfortable with the security of an establishment’s payment or checkout systems, using cash is always an option. While it’s not a good idea to carry large amounts of money, paying for meal or outing in cash is a surefire way to safeguard your information and protect your credit from potential identity theft and damage.

Unpack Your Wallet

Many of us keep very important information in our wallets on a daily basis, including social security cards and insurance cards. Consider leaving any card or item at home that is non-essential to your travels. An insurance card, for example, often contains enough identifying information to put you at risk if it’s stolen. And the last thing you’d want is for your Social Security number falling into the wrong hands.

Create a Dedicated Email Address

When you’re planning and booking travel, you’re probably exchanging a ton of emails. Consider creating a dedicated email that no one else knows about or has access to. If someone were to get access to an email account, with all of this information, the potential for damage to your credit could be very high.

Safeguard Your Cell Phone

Cell phones are arguably our most personal possession when it comes to financial and identifying information. We all use apps for a lot of different things, from banking to socializing. If you’re logged into all of your apps on your phone, that information is right at the fingertips of anyone that gets their hands on it. Make sure you have password protection or user ID touch set up to get into your phone and consider logging out of all of your apps.

Stay Off Social Media

Posting your whereabouts and advertising the fact that you’re away from home may open you up to risk. Consider what could happen if someone were to gain access to your home, office, or any other location where you keep personal information. Not only can property theft occur, but identity theft as well—it can take years for your credit to recover. Resist the urge to post that status update or photo, and save your social sharing for when you’re back at home.

If you’re concerned about your credit after traveling, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s credit report card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

Source: credit.com

The Job Scam That Even You Could Fall For

This might be the most sophisticated job scam I’ve ever seen. Thanks to a near-victim, you’ll get a rare chance to see a real pro almost pull off a nearly perfect digital caper.

You do things when you are job hunting that you wouldn’t normally do. You meet strangers. You share a lot of personal information with the world, on resumes and through job sites. You’re vulnerable. And most critically: You generally need money. It’s a scammer’s dream, and that’s why job-hunting scams are so persistent and prevalent.

Every chance I get, I try to explain that “smart” folks fall for scams all the time — and those at greatest risk are those who think they are too clever for criminals. This is one of those stories.

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Josh Belzman is not just a tech savvy worker; he’s spent the better part of the last decade as a social media professional in Seattle. He’s been working in and around the internet’s cesspools for years.

Still, he recently went halfway down the aisle with a criminal offering the false hope of an exciting job in social media. Like all victims and near victims, he couldn’t stop blaming himself as he described the sequence to me— but I can see exactly why Josh danced with the devil.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

Josh, 39, is job hunting, and he received an email from a woman named Morgan who said she worked for a big law firm and needed contract social media work for $39-$45 an hour. That kind of short-term gig is exactly what people like Josh need while they look for their next career step.

“I probably should have trusted my spidey sense and not engaged at all but you know how it goes when looking for work— your guard and confidence can drop,” he said.

Morgan asked for a Google hangout chat as a first step. Josh did his due diligence, and Googled her. Up came a LinkedIn profile that checked out. She had a long professional history in the Seattle area, including alleged stints as a ski instructor at nearby Snoqualmie Summit. It said she had worked at various law firms dating back to 2009. The firm (I won’t mention it) was real. So he jumped online, ready to answer her questions and ask a few.

Generally, con artists betray themselves during real-time interactions. They speak poor English, they show obvious lack of subject matter knowledge, and there are awkward delays. Morgan exhibited none of those. In fact, her questions for Josh were spot on. Here’s a partial list I pulled from a transcript of their chat.

“Could you give us an example of a limitation on a social platform that you have experienced? How did you overcome this?”

“Have you ever had to handle a Social Media crisis? If so, could you provide an example and how would you describe your work ethics?”

“How would you allocate our Social Media advertising budget and How do you evaluate new social platforms? How do you stay on top of the latest updates and innovations in Social Media?”

“Do you have your own blog? Do you currently write content for various Social Media platforms and why should we hire you?”

Josh answered each one deliberately. After each response, she replied, “good,” “very good,” and eventually “great.” All what you’d expect, or even hope for, during an interview.

Reading through the full transcript, you can see in retrospect that all these questions could have been cut and pasted from a script. In fact, I suspect the criminals somehow lifted them from an actual interview involving a social media position— perhaps they’d applied for a job themselves earlier just to understand what “marks” would expect.

Only once was there something more that might have tipped off Josh. When he, smartly, tried to interrupt and ask his own questions, Morgan’s reaction was a bit off.

Josh: Mind if I ask a few questions about the role?

Morgan: Sure when we done with this process so you can get all the details you need to know.

But that’s it. The rest of the interview went as you might expect. LinkedIn page and all. Until …

Morgan: How soon can you begin work if luckily chosen for the position, do you need any our Company benefits and what means of Payment would you prefer; Check Or Direct Deposit?

Morgan: What bank are you with for Direct deposit/Check so we can see if it tallies with our preferred banks and do you have any question before i move forward?

Josh: I’m not comfortable sharing banking info online.

(Morgan may not be on Hangouts right now. Your messages will be seen later.)

The “line” went immediately dead.

Fortunately, after an hour of “seduction” and with the lure of a $35-an-hour job, Josh did listen to his spidey sense and threw up a roadblock. And as soon as Morgan saw he wouldn’t play along, she “hung up” on him.

An hour or so wasted, but it could have been much worse.

“I should have never entertained this — the initial email was sketchy but I chalked that up to some office admin being asked to help find candidates,” he said. “Going back through I see very few comments in ‘her’ voice— just a lot of cut-and-paste questions and ‘OK good.’ Amazing the tricks your mind plays in you when you’re visualizing a certain situation.”

After the disconnect, Josh called the firm and was told no one by that name worked there.

I, however, did find someone with her name who had posted a resume that was similar. It’s likely the con artists assumed elements of her identity for the scam. I emailed her, and got no response. I also emailed the person who chatted with Josh and got no response.

“The initial email was unsolicited with that odd name but I saw the LinkedIn profile and I’ve had some of those mails come through (job sites),” Josh said. “The hangout thing raised eyebrows but I suspended some of that because I got caught up answering the questions.”

Tips for Avoiding Scammers

So what should you do? The big one: Always trust your gut. I pretty much never talk to anyone who falls for these things who doesn’t say they had a queasy feeling in their stomach at some point.

Also, do what Josh did. Say it out loud: “I’m not comfortable with that.” It’s a handy phrase. A real person will react with an apology to that, like “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” A con artist, or a bad person, will push you instead. Or hang up.

Finally, be realistic. If you are out of work, you are vulnerable. No matter how smart and put together you think you are. Know that going in. You’ll be more likely to hit the pause button if things go south, and generally, hitting pause is enough to scare off bad guys.

Here’s a handy list of ways to spot “Work at Home” scams. And if you think you’ve already fallen prey to an identity theft scam, it’s a good idea to keep an close eye on your credit. New accounts you don’t recognize on your credit reports or a sudden drop in credit scores are signs that fraud is afoot. (You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view two of your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.) You can find more steps to take if you are an identity theft victim here.

Image: PeopleImages

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Source: credit.com