Card fraud for UK citizens is a serious challenge. In 2011 alone, the UK saw fraud losses related to card theft top £341 million. And take it as a sign of the high-tech times that a thief doesn’t have to physically steal your card in order to gain access to your funds. The best way to fight card fraud is through prevention, so here are five simple tips that can help you guard your financial well-being from fraud.

Dispose of any financial information carefully. This one is basic knowledge, but it’s worth repeating. Invest in a shredder for your home office so that you can properly dispose of any documents with your personal information or financial information on them. And find out if your bank offers a paperless billing program so that you don’t have to worry about hard copy statements.

Be vigilant with your mail. Sometimes would-be con artists need only a credit card offer addressed to you to commit card fraud. And sometimes all that is necessary to get a card in your name is a few financial details, readily found on your utility bills or your banking statements. For these reasons, you should always check your mail as soon as you arrive home, and if you’ve not received a statement that you were expecting, call the issuing company to see when it was mailed.

Leave your cards in various safe places. When you’re out shopping, you’ll probably need to pull your purse out often, which increases the likelihood of your credit cards being lost or stolen. To avoid this risk, make sure to take a small bag instead of a big purse that would make it more difficult to notice if you’ve lost something. Also, in case a card of yours is lost or stolen, leave your credit cards in various safe places around the house. Only take the one(s) that you’ll need on your shopping trip with you.

Shop smarter online. Shopping online with a credit card can be a great convenience, but only if you know how to do it wisely. The best thing to do is to stick with well-known retailers that you know are legitimate businesses. However, no matter what web site you want to purchase from, make sure you see a padlock in the lower right hand corner of your browser screen. And for added security, make sure that the business has a working phone number and a street address (not a post office box) so that you can contact them in case something goes awry.

Know your bank’s contact policies. One of the easiest ways for your bank account information to end up in the wrong hands is for you to click on a link in a suspicious email that leads you to what you may think is your bank’s online account management system. Most banks will never contact you by email or telephone, and many of them will let you choose a preferred method of contact. Remember never to give up your account details if you’re not absolutely sure that you’re communicating with a bank representative, which usually means that you contact them, not the other way around.

Of course, even for the most vigilant consumers, card fraud still happens. If you experience card fraud, the best thing you can do is contact your banks, and then contact a legal representation firm, such as Irwin Mitchell, who can help you sort out what to do next.

By Jasmina