More Bad News about Credit Cards

Here are three simple ways to keep your credit cards safe – from thieves and yourself

The big news about credit cards right before Christmas wasn’t about running up the holiday shopping bills – it was stunning theft of 40 million credit and debit card accounts from Target.

But right after Christmas came this strange news: The FBI is warning retailers that similar thefts might involve tin foil.

Yes, tin foil.

Here’s how Businessweek explains the exploit…

  1. The thieves climb on the roof of the stores they want to rip off. They use the foil to cover the satellite antenna that communicates with the credit card company.
  2. The stores can’t validate credit and debit card transactions. “That opens the door, so to speak, for bandits to enter the store, load up their carts with electronics or cigarettes, and pay with stolen credit cards,” Businessweek says.
  3. The stores still allow the sale to go through, thinking the signal is down just for a few minutes for technical reasons. “The thieves and their ill-gotten goods are long gone by the time a store realizes its satellite receiver has been wrapped up like a plate of leftover meatloaf,” Businessweek says.

While the odds of your card being stolen and used in such a crime are remote, it’s more likely your credit card problems will be of your own making.

Last month, Bloomberg reported, “Consumer borrowing rose in October by the most in five months as credit-card use picked up and Americans took out more loans for car purchases and education.”

Consolidated Credit urges Americans to make New Year’s resolution of controlling their credit card spending. Here are three things you can do right now…

  1. Pay off your cards with the highest APR. If you have to make minimum payments, do it on the cards with lower interest rates, since they’ll cost you less in the long run.
  2. Call your credit card company to see if they’ll offer you a lower rate. Obviously, it’s easier for certified credit counselors to negotiate this, since they know the industry. But even on your own, you might be able to get a temporary reduction.
  3. Take advantage of balance transfers. You can open a new card with a lower rate and transfer the debt with no penalty.

Of course, all three strategies are temporary fixes – if you keep spending more than you’re earning, you’ll be in an even worse position by Valentine’s Day. The best and easiest way to climb out of credit card debt is free – by getting a debt analysis from Consolidated Credit. Call or fill out the form here to access our interactive online debt analysis.