Be careful while using your credit cards this season. According to PNC Bank, credit card fraud increases about 19% during the holiday season. Most of us tend to use our credit cards more than usual and since we are in such a rush, sometimes we aren’t as careful with whom and where we use them. At one company I used to work for, the highest number of credit card fraud reports were filed during the month of January, when many customers would call to let us know their credit card information had been compromised. Often, it would cost them thousands of dollars and a lot of time and aggravation to remediate the problem.
Most of the time, the victims didn’t know who was responsible for the fraudulent activity, or how they obtained the card information in the first place. It was usually almost impossible to determine how it happened—some of them might have visited an unsecure website; others weren’t careful who they handed their cards to. Critical questions about who had access to the card information, how they got access, and where they used the information were unanswerable, making it very difficult to understand how the fraud occurred, and how to prevent future incidents.
In order to protect any sensitive data, we need to be able control who has access to it, monitor who has been accessing it, and what they’ve been doing. We need to know which sensitive data is accessible to the wrong people or just too many, and we need to monitor and analyze actual usage to detect when access is being abused. Detecting fraud when it comes to unstructured data is a lot like detecting credit card fraud—make sure only the right people have access, and then pay attention (with automated systems) to what they’re doing.
By using automation to collect and analyze looking at various kinds of data about our data, or metadata, we’re able to identify where users have too much access and where sensitive data is overexposed, and then correct these problems by looking at access activity.
The right metadata can also help you protect your personal information. Where are your credit cards? Who has access to them? Where are they being used, and by whom? How often do you review your transactions? Does your credit card company use automated fraud detection? What is your liability in the event of a fraudulent charge? In addition, here are some ideas to be aware of while you do your holiday shopping this season:
- If you shop online, shop at reputable stores, look for references with sources you trust
- Make sure you use web-sites that encrypt your data—never submit credit card information unless the connection is secured using SSL
- In the store, always keep your credit card in sight; if you hand it over to the cashier still keep an eye on it. It is even better if you swipe the card on your own
- Always check the card when someone returns it to you; make sure it is yours
- Make sure that printed credit card receipts obscure your information before throwing away
- Be aware of where and when you use your credit card and check your statements regularly for anything that’s out of order
- Be aware of which credit cards you are using and which you aren’t
- At the ATM make sure you block the view when you enter your PIN
Enjoy this Holiday season and shop safely!