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The Credit Card Thief: Is It Someone You Know?

by Barbara Marquand

When you think of credit card fraud, you might envision the pickpocket who snatches your wallet and then charges purchases to his heart's content. Or perhaps you picture a tech-savvy organized crime network setting up phony credit card readers to steal your account information and then make counterfeit credit cards to run up charges in your name.

What you don't imagine is a relative or so-called friend. But according to Federal Trade Commission survey reports, identity theft victims personally knew those who had misused their personal information in 16 percent of all ID theft cases. And, perhaps more disturbing, 6 percent of victims reported a family member or relative as the one who misused their personal information.

Keep Credit Cards Safe

If you've ever wondered why experts advise not to lend your credit card to anyone, now you know. Here are tips for how to protect your credit card information from those you know, and possibly love:

• Keep your credit cards in a safe place when you're at home or visiting. If you attend a big party at a friend's house, for instance, don't stash your purse somewhere, thinking it's safe just because you're in a familiar place. A friend of a friend isn't always to be trusted. Better yet, keep your credit cards at home when you don't need them.

Credit Card Use: Restrict It to Yourself

• Don't lend your credit card to anyone. That may sound like a no-brainer, but it can be tempting if you're in college and a buddy in your dorm or fraternity or sorority asks for a favor. But your credit history and credit score are at risk, and friendships quickly sour when money disputes arise. Just say no.

• If you must let someone use your credit card, go with him or her to do the transaction yourself or do the transaction online on your own computer. Guard your credit card number to keep it confidential.

• Report unauthorized purchases. Even if it was your brother who stole your PIN and credit card to get a cash advance, you can report the purchase as unauthorized, says Consumer Action. Keep in mind, though, you may have to sign a sworn statement that your brother used the card without your permission.

It's difficult enough when strangers steal your credit card information, but it's doubly hard when acquaintances or relatives are the culprits. Avoid the trouble by keeping your credit cards to yourself.

Published 03/03/11 (Modified 03/04/11)

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