(BPT) - Payments fraud is serious business but with a few simple steps consumers can make themselves less vulnerable to potential scammers.

One way consumers can protect themselves is through prepaid cards, a safe and secure financial tool, that accesses a set limit of funds and isnít tied to a bank account. These cards also come with zero liability protection from the major card networks (American Express, Discover MasterCard and Visa), all while being convenient to use and accepted nearly everywhere.

Although the potential for fraud exists with prepaid cards the prepaid industry works consistently with law enforcement and the IRS to combat that fraud. In addition, consumer advocates, government agencies, businesses and consumers all must work together to combat this threat in order to keep our data and money secure.

Because scammers and fraudsters are increasing in number every day, even the savviest consumer can become an unsuspecting target. Thus, itís important to be aware of potential fraud and know how to avoid it, including what to do if a fraudster contacts you.

The Network Branded Prepaid Card Association (NBPCA) offers the following tips for consumers using prepaid cards to ensure the most secure and safe experience:

* Always register your prepaid card and read all accompanying literature.

* Never give out your personal information (such as Social Security number or PIN) to anyone who asks you to send them money via a prepaid card.

* Donít be fooled by calls or letters from strangers (even ones who tell you theyíre in a position of authority) telling you that you must send money via a prepaid card to avoid jail time or help a loved one. This is a common scam. Make sure you contact the relative first then immediately contact law enforcement.

* Avoid visiting so-called ďclonedĒ websites. These sites look exactly like your bank or prepaid card providerís site but are actually sites owned by fraudsters designed to obtain the information necessary to take your money. Contact your bank or prepaid card provider only by using the web address provided on the card or accompanying information. Enter the URL yourself; donít visit the site by clicking a link in an email.

* Donít call fake phone numbers. Contact your bank or prepaid card provider only by using the phone number provided on the card or accompanying information.

* Make sure your password is secure Ė use a combination of letters and numbers and other symbols or a short phrase only you would know.

* Never write your PIN on your card.

* Donít use the same login and password information for your cards and checking account as you do for other online activities, like shopping or email.

* If your card is lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to your prepaid card provider. You may often be able to recover your money may in accordance with the zero liability policies of the payment network and/or the protections afforded by federal law.

For more information on how to avoid scammers, phishers and other fraudsters, visit the FTC pages on government imposter scams and IRS scams.