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How to Secure your Credit and Debit cards

The use of plastic money began in India as early as 1987, when HSBC first introduced their ATM cards. Since then there has been no looking back. Today debit and credit cards together generate sales of over Rs 1.5 lakh crore annually.

Also the increase in Internet coverage and rising levels of disposable income amongst the middle and upper middle class has contributed to surge in the usage of cashless purchases. Convenience in terms of usage can be attributed to be one of the vital factors aiding its increasing popularity. One can now buy without worrying to take out and carry cash. From mobile phone recharges to airplane tickets; from a cup of coffee to a meal at fine dine restaurant, almost everything can now be purchased by swiping credit and debit cards.

The other side of the coin
Increased use of plastic money by consumers across the nation has also seen the rise in frauds and crimes related to credit and debit cards at an alarming rate. These crimes occur primarily because of negligence of unsuspecting users, which makes them susceptible to frauds from miscreants who take benefits of their negligence and steal their hard earned money.

It becomes very difficult for the police and the bank to control such crime because by the time one files a complaint and the action is taken, a lot of damage has already been done. So the best way to secure yourself lies in an old proverb, 'Prevention is better than the cure'. That is, card users must take care of a few thumb rules to prevent from becoming targets of credit/debit card cloning/counterfeiting crimes.

The improvements in the field of technology has made improvements in security, but at the same time, unscrupulous elements are getting access to advanced technology which can make counterfeiting/ cloning of cards easy.

1. Online security
People should be conscious enough to never disclose their card details to anyone, especially onli#8800 only shop on secure gateways, that is, websites with 'https//' and not 'http//'.

Online purchases should be done only from web sites which are certified by 'VeriSign' or 'Thawte', two online security certificate issuers.

The customer should register with Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode to make online shopping more secure.

2. Passwords and PINs
The cardholders are advised to change passwords from time to time. For numeric passwords, like ATM PINs, one should not use sequence like '2345' or '5678', also using repetitions should be avoided '2222' or '5555'.

Using the same PIN for more than one card should be avoided. In case of passwords, one should use a mix of special characters and alpha-numeric characters.

PIN/password should not be kept with the card, like in wallet or purse.

A few simple tips
One should limit the number of cards, and carry the ones which are really needed.

Swiping the card twice is risky and also on smaller machines claiming for a special scheme. In these cases the information on the magnetic strip can be easily replicated to make a clone (creating a duplicate copy).

The card must be signed upon the receipt, as it would prevent misuse, and would also be a proof in case of ambiguity.

Banks never ask for your card information, so the customer should be alarmed if any such request is sent across to him. S/he should first contact the bank before letting out her/his details.

Credit cards are still better to use than debit cards because discrepancies can be solved easily. Since in case of debit card, the account has already been charged, the amount gets debited leaving little scope of getting it back.

The customer should always check her/his card statements and report discrepancies, if any, to the concerned bank without delay.

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