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Tips for Preventing Credit Card Theft

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) – ‘Tis the season to swipe the credit card -- and to be on alert. As shoppers rush home with their treasures, all purchased with just one swipe of a piece of plastic, it comes with one great risk: credit card fraud.

About eight million American were victims of fraud this past year, and almost half of those reports were linked to stolen card information.

“Right now criminal hackers are buying and selling our credit card information on the Internet,” said Robert Siciliano, an identity theft expert and consultant for McAfee, purveyor of antivirus software. “It’s very important that the consumers ultimately check their own statements frequently, especially during the holiday season and refute unauthorized charges to protect themselves.”

But it’s not just credit and debit cards that put consumers at risk. Siciliano said gift cards are often a popular target for thieves to commit common fraud.

“When [thieves] see a gift card on a display...they can skim the information off the back of the magnetic strip,” he said. “Once they do that they have enough information about that card that they can go ahead place an order over the Internet or even over the phone.”

Sicilano offered these tips for keeping your purchases on your plastic safe this holiday season:

  1. Be careful where you buy gift cards
  2. Check your credit card statements regularly
  3. It’s safer to use credit cards online
  4. Look for ‘Https’ websites when shopping online

Tune into Nightline Wednesday at 11:35 p.m. ET to watch ABC’s Cecilia Vega’s report from inside Visa’s security center -- a never-before-seen look at the precautions the company uses to keep consumer transaction information safe.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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