Fear of using cash during COVID-19 has led to spike in fraud: here's how to protect yourself

Kristine Solomon
·5 min read

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Credit card fraud has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic
Credit card fraud has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our habits in countless ways, not the least of which is how we pay for goods and services. Although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that coronavirus can stay alive on surfaces for hours to days, the risk of catching it by handling cash is still unknown. But that hasn’t stopped many people from avoiding cash. Research finds that more than half of Americans are concerned about laying their hands on dollars and cents, for fear that it might transmit the virus.

This panic—combined with the rise in online shopping as well as more businesses requiring contactless payments—has led to a spike in credit card use this year — and credit card fraud.

The Wall Street Journal reports that credit card fraud has increased by more than 35 percent year over year. There have been almost 11,000 reports of credit card fraud and 6,000 in debit card fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) since January—a total loss of almost $26 million for consumers just like you.

“Everybody's using credit cards and debit cards [during the pandemic], and they're not necessarily remembering every transaction they do in a day,” says Adam Levin, cyber security expert and founder of CyberScout, to Yahoo Life. If you happen to share your credit card with your spouse or kids, Levin says it becomes even more difficult to recognize if your account has been compromised.

LastPass Premium keeps all your payment info contained in a secure, easy-to-access “digital wallet”

LastPass Premium's digital wallet lets you store all your card and payment methods securely in one place. (Photo: LastPass Premium)
LastPass Premium's digital wallet lets you store all your card and payment methods securely in one place. (Photo: LastPass Premium)

One handy tool to help protect your credit and debit cards against fraud is to store all your payment information in a digital wallet. LastPass Premium, the industry’s leading password manager, has this feature built-in.

Last Pass Premium holds your credit and debit card information in an impenetrable digital wallet, so you can make online payments safely and seamlessly without ever pulling out your physical wallet. It even provides two-factor authentication to ensure even the most clever hackers are locked out. Any payment methods stored in your digital wallet are only accessible to you and designated family members who share your LastPass account.

LastPass Premium is free to use for 30 days, and after that it’s just $1.99 a month.

LastPass Premium keeps all of your passwords stored securely, too. (Photo: LastPass)
LastPass Premium keeps all of your passwords stored securely, too. (Photo: LastPass)

Because it’s primarily a password manager, LastPass Premium also stores the log-in information for every site you’ve signed up for, even helping to create long and strong passwords for each account and automatically changing and updating them on a regular basis to make sure they’re never compromised. All you have to remember is one password: the password to your LastPass account.

Be proactive about avoiding credit card fraud

LastPass Premium
LastPass Premium

Beyond that, Levin suggests making sure your transaction alerts are turned on for every single active credit and debit card account you own, whether or not you use the card regularly to make digital payments.

“I've seen it happen where you get an alert, and you look at it and go, ‘Oh, well it must be my kid or spouse.’ But you don't actually ask your kid or spouse about it,” says Levin. Turning on transaction alerts guarantees that you’re alerted to each transaction in real time, but it also requires investigation if the alert is for a transaction you don’t recognize.

Levin says it’s important not to put your guard down, as hackers take advantage of periods of chaos to proliferate things like credit card fraud. “Especially now with a second, third or fourth wave of COVID-19, the election craziness, plus all of the people that are desperately waiting for additional stimulus [checks] to come,” it’s more important than ever to keep tabs on electronic activity of all kinds, says Levin.

Shop it: LastPass Premium, 30-day free trial then $1.99 a month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

Report credit card fraud as soon as you notice it

LastPass Premium
LastPass Premium

If you do notice suspicious activity on your account, take action immediately. “Tell your bank or credit card company immediately if you see a...charge you don’t recognize,” the FTC warns. “If the unauthorized charge is part of a scam, telling your bank and the FTC might help stop the scammers.” You also stand a better chance of absolving yourself of fraudulent charges if you report them as soon as possible.

The FTC says that other ways you can outsmart scammers include making sure you know who exactly you’re dealing with in the first place when you make an online transaction. Is this a site you can trust, and do you know what they’re doing with your payment (and personal) information?

LastPass Premium will help make sure your personal information is kept securely vaulted, and it even issues security alerts to let you know if one of your online accounts might be at risk from a security breach. It’s a powerful and effective tool to keep in your arsenal, but building healthy habits for your online behavior is also a crucial measure in avoiding credit card fraud.

In some cases, credit card fraud is just a precursor to full-on identity theft. These precautionary measures will keep you in the clear. Levin says that whenever you’re making an online transaction, it’s important to keep this overarching objective in mind: “Don't give away your most precious asset, which is you.”

Shop it: LastPass Premium, 30-day free trial then $1.99 a month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

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