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Planning your move - protecting yourself

October 10th, 2011 - 3:43 PM

Something you may not have considered while you're preparing for your cross-country move is how to protect yourself from debit card and credit card fraud.  Considering all of the transactions that take place during the moving process, it's a very real concern and definitely something to keep top-of-mind.
The point where much debit card and credit card fraud happens is through online purchases.  That means when you're shopping online it's best to choose sites with a secure checkout— you'll recognize these sites by their URL.  It should start with https:// instead of http://.  You'll notice that U-Pack offers a secure checkout, which you can see in the URL:  https://www.upack.com/secure/reserve.asp.

My recommendation is to make all purchases related to your move on one credit card (and make sure to pay off the balance to avoid finance charges).  Not only does putting everything on one card help you keep up with all of your moving-related expenses, a credit card typically allows more protection and less hassle if something unforeseen does happen. Of course, debit cards have great advantages, but keep in mind that they're a direct link to your bank account, so think it through before handing it over.

This article on the 10 Places NOT to Use Your Debit Card is a great read, and prompted us to come up with questions to ask to determine how you'll pay for your moving-related expenses.

What type of protection do you have if something does go wrong?
The Fair Credit Billing Act states that if you report the loss of your credit cards before they are used, the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges.  If they are used before reported missing, your maximum liability is $50 per card.  If the loss involves your credit card number, but not the card itself, you have no liability for unauthorized use. 

The FDIC regulates unauthorized transfers dealing with debit cards.  If you notify the financial institution within two business days after learning of loss or theft of your card or card number, your liability is limited to $50. If you fail to notify the financial institution within two business days, your liability can increase to $500. 

Many banks and credit card companies offer additional protection, so ask ahead of time.

Is it a secure location?
I mentioned making sure the website has a secure checkout (with https://), but you'll also want to make sure you're not in a free Wi-Fi hotspot when you're making a purchase.  Many restaurants, hotels, etc. offer free Wi-Fi, but the connection is unsecured.  If you enter your debit card or credit card information online in these areas, hackers can more easily steal your info. 

Restaurants and bars are other places where experts suggest you use a credit card or cash for payment.  Since the card is out of your sight, you should consider it unsecure.  

Are there holds put on your account?
While this isn't necessarily an identity theft concern, it is a concern of convenience.  Often hotels, gas stations and rental agencies will block off an amount on your card that cannot be accessed until the business tells the bank how much was actually used— which can take up to 72 hours or more.  During that time, you do not have access to the cash. 

For example, according to MSN Money and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, if you use your debit card at a pump that doesn't require a PIN, your bank usually blocks $50 to $75 that is not "un-blocked" until the station does a "batch" transaction to tell the bank your actual spend.  The same typically happens with hotel stays— they'll normally hold the room charges plus what they estimate you'll spend on in-room charges.

If you have no other options but a debit card, ask how much they'll hold and how long until the hold is released. Then make certain you have enough money in your account to cover the amount on hold plus your other expenses. 

Let them know you're moving
Before you begin your move, check with your bank or credit card company to see what policies are in place for using your debit card or credit card in places outside of your area and if there is a daily spending limit.  Sometimes transactions are declined until you notify the bank/credit card company that you will be making purchases out-of-state or large transactions that may exceed the daily spending limit.  You'll want to make sure you're not put in a bind when it comes time to pay.  

What to do if you experience fraud
If your card has been compromised, follow these steps:
Debit Card Fraud
Credit Card Fraud

How payment with U-Pack works
I mentioned earlier that online checkout with U-Pack is secure.  In fact, your security is of upmost importance to us.  Even when you reserve by phone, your credit card information is automatically encrypted.  While U-Pack requires a credit card for reservation, no holds or deposits are placed on the card and your card isn't charged until your moving trailer or ReloCube is loaded and on its way to your destination.