Online shopping was already a mainstay in the lives of most Americans — but its popularity has skyrocketed in the past couple of years.

It’s almost dangerously convenient; there’s no need to go to the store, insert or wave your card, or spend money on gas when Jeff Bezos is willing to bring your needs to your doorstep.

However, you should still be mindful of the safety of your financial information. Fraudsters and criminals know that more transactions are happening digitally, and they’re working hard to profit off this big change.

Fidelity National Information Services showed at the start of the pandemic that the amount of fraudulent credit transactions had increased by 35% in a year-over-year comparison.

Credit card fraud is still a problem for one simple reason: It continues to work. Here are a few simple tips to follow to make sure that you’re taking the proper precautions.

1. Use your credit card — not your debit card

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The Fair Credit Billing Act (passed in 1974) stipulates that the maximum amount you could owe for unauthorized use of your credit is $50. In most cases, you would owe nothing —  that’s where the “zero liability protection” on many credit cards really matters.

Debit cards, though, are a different story. Those pieces of plastic are governed by the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, which says you could be responsible for up to $500 of fraudulent charges if you fail to report it for more than two business days.

And even if your bank doesn’t make you pay for those fraudulent charges, you’re still going to have to jump through hoops to get your money back. Keep that cash in your checking account, and stick with your credit card. It has better protection and better opportunities to reward your spending, too.

2. Check your account activity each day

While you aren’t liable for fraudulent credit card use, you still don’t want it to happen. It can create all kinds of headaches with your credit report, not to mention you’ll have to cancel automatic payments if you have to change your card number due to fraud. So don’t wait until you review your monthly statement to make sure your card is safe.

Make a point to check your banking app once a day. A daily check-in on your credit card transactions can give you a good understanding of how you’re spending your money, and it will give you a heads-up if someone else is attempting to spend it.

3. Create spending alerts

Check your online bank portal for options to pre-program alerts that can make you aware of new purchases.

Many banks offer to send alerts if a transaction exceeds a certain threshold, if an international charge has been made to the card, or if an online or phone charge is pending. Have those notifications emailed or texted to you — whichever you prefer — and you’ll be able to dispute anything that seems out of the ordinary immediately.

4. Be suspicious

“Don’t click on strange links” may seem like common sense, but online criminals are getting more sophisticated than the old-school misspelled messages pleading to send money to someone who desperately needs your help.

Rather than clicking on links from you email inbox, visit the site. In the address bar, look for a symbol of a padlock — or for the URL to begin with https, with the “s” meaning “secure.” The same goes for text messages.

And while it’s tempting to hand over your email address or other information to any retailer in exchange for a promo code, it’s a good practice to limit your number of sign-ups simply because those retailers are major targets. When your information is stored in a retailer’s system, it’s another potential risk.

5. Ask your issuer about virtual account numbers

Some banks include the option to create virtual credit card numbers for your online transactions. Instead of using the regular 16-digit code on your card, this system generates temporary numbers for your purchases. So, even if a hacker stumbles on to the number, they aren’t going to be able to do much with it.

For example, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers the ability to use virtual numbers online. American Express, Citi, and Wells Fargo also offer this benefit.

Bottom line

Any given time you swipe your card — virtually or otherwise — there can be an alarming number of rapscallions feverishly working to attain your sensitive information. Banks generally do a fantastic job at fending off these attacks, but you can never be too careful.

By following the above steps, you can make their work much more difficult.

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