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Guide to Safe Payment Card Usage

Niall Faherty

Keep your PIN safe

Most Irish payment cards now use ‘Chip and PIN’ technology meaning they contain a micro-chip that helps prevent counterfeiting or cloning fraud. Cardholders use a PIN (Personal Identification Number) instead of signing to authorise payments. It is very important for cardholders to keep their PIN safe.

  • Do not write your PIN down or carry it with your payment card
  • Do not tell anyone your PIN
  • Know that your bank or card issuer will never ask you for your PIN
  • Never disclose your PIN over the phone or on the Internet
  • Don’t mistake the 3-digit Card Security Code (CSC) on the back of your card for your PIN. They are not the same thing
  • Do not allow your payment card to be taken out of your sight when you are paying for goods or services. If the till is not nearby, go with the staff member to make the payment
  • Keep your card issuer’s phone number handy, for reporting lost or stolen payment cards
  • If you do not protect your payment card or PIN, or you give them to someone else, you may be held liable for unauthorised transactions.

Retain receipts

Retain receipts to reconcile them against your statements. If there are transactions on your account that you do not recognise, contact your bank or card issuer immediately in order to have the issue investigated.

Using your payment card abroad

  • In some countries you are asked to provide photo identification (e.g. a passport), to key in a PIN and/or to sign a receipt in order to verify a transaction. These are simply added security procedures carried out by some shops – similar to the way in which shops here might ask you to initial your cash back on a debit card transaction. Chip and PIN is a European initiative and is operational in Ireland.
  • You may wish to advise your bank or card issuer in advance of travelling abroad. In order to protect against fraudulent transactions on your card, banks operate fraud monitoring systems which alert them to unusual spending patterns. Generally the card issuer will contact the cardholder on detection of these unusual spending patterns.

Keeping your cards safe when travelling abroad

Trying to pay for things without the use of your cards at home can be very inconvenient but just think how much more difficult shopping or dining out would be without your cards when travelling abroad. If you are in unfamiliar country, with only a basic grasp of the local language and little or no cash on you, this situation could become a nightmare and may even cause you to cut your holiday short.

However there are a few simple things you can do to minimise your chances of becoming a victim of theft or fraud while you are abroad and to lesson the inconvenience you suffer in the unfortunate event that you do.

Before you go abroad

  • Take a note of your bank’s 24-hour Emergency Helpline Numbers – This will help you to report any theft or loss immediately. You will find these numbers on your bank statements and in the telephone directory. You may find it convenient to store these numbers in your mobile phone.
  • Only bring cards that you intend to use.  Leave any other cards at home.
  • Check that your card company has your mobile number on file.  If your bank or card company see unusual or out of pattern spending on your account, they may attempt to contact you by mobile to confirm whether you have carried out the transactions.  Having your correct mobile number on file will help them to make contact with you swiftly.

During your trip abroad

  • Always cover the PIN pad with your free hand when when keying in your PIN, when using your card at shops and ATMs abroad
  • Take extra care in pubs and night clubs – Take particular care when using your card and PIN in a pub or night club, especially after consuming alcohol and never leave your card behind the bar.
  • Never tell anyone your PIN – you and you alone should know your PIN
  • Have your card ready when making a payment. Avoid having to go through your wallet or purse for money or cards, especially at the ATM. This might allow a thief an opportunity to see what’s on offer!
  • Mind your handbag and wallet. It sounds obvious but when on holidays we tend to leave our guard down and thieves will take advantage of this. When in crowds especially, keep your bag strapped across your body firmly. Turn the clasp towards you, making it even harder for the thief to get at it. A concealed money belt is an ideal way to carry cards and valuables.
  • Don’t let your card out of your sight – Take your card to the till rather than handing it over, especially in a restaurant. Where possible, insist that restaurant staff members do not take you card out of your sight when paying for meals, or similar. They could be skimming your card details.
  • Conceal valuables – Warm weather means less clothing which can also mean that personal items such as wallets are more visible than usual. Take extra care to ensure that valuables are concealed.
  • Leave your cards behind when on a night out – If you are planning a late night out, it might be an idea to leave your cards at your accommodation, in a safe place.
  • Keep cards safe by the pool:  When at the beach or by the pool, ensure that your cards are in a safe place where a thief cannot swipe them while you sunbathe.
  • Report Lost and Stolen cards Immediately:  If your card is lost at home or abroad, contact your card issuer immediately. You may find it convenient to store the number for your issuer in your mobile phone or on a note kept in your luggage (not in your purse). It is important to report the loss straight away and not to wait until you come home from your holiday. Waiting can mean greater fraud losses and more money into the hands of serious criminal.

On your return home

  • Check your statement carefully when you return home or via the Internet if you have access to 24-hour banking while on holidays.  If there are any transactions that you do not recognise, contact your card company immediately.

The Fraud Prevention Guide is available for download below in PDF format.

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