Take care with your credit cards

Credit and debit cards have become a necessity in the lives of many people — a convenient means of shopping and banking that most of us take for granted. But they can be everybody’s worst nightmare in the wrong hands.

Today, people rely on credit and debit cards much as they relied on cash and checks in the past.

Because of their popularity and widespread use, thieves have targeted them in recent years.

Plastic fraud has become big business for many unscrupulous individuals.

There are several things you can do to minimize the possibility of having your cards compromised.

First, protect your cards as you would cash. Never write your personal identification number (PIN) on your debit card. Instead, commit this number to memory.

Keep your eye on your credit card when it is in use. If possible, watch the clerk process your payment. Some dishonest merchants have been known to imprint extra copies of charge slips.

After signing credit card slips, ask for your receipts. Keep them so you can compare them to the charges listed on your monthly statement but destroy them after this is accomplished.

This will prevent people from collecting copies of your discarded charge slips from wastebaskets or garbage cans.

Remember to cut up expired cards before disposing of them. And pay particular attention to new or replacement cards.

Sign the back of them as soon as they are activated. Stealing and using credit cards that have not been signed is another scheme used by thieves.

Finally, since pickpockets target many shoppers, separate your cards.

Carry only those cards that you plan to use. If your purse or wallet is stolen, you will not lose all your cards.

These are common sense ideas. But they may prevent the trauma of having your cards being used in a fraudulent manner by others.