Protecting yourself from financial fraud is not the easiest thing to do, but it is an important part of saving yourself a lot of time and headaches down the road should your financial information ever be compromised. The fraudsters and scammers are getting better and bolder in their approach to taking your money, using phone calls, skimmers, and hacking. Cybersecurity issues are becoming a daily struggle for businesses; thousands of customers’ information can be compromised in a matter of seconds, including yours. The more often we make our information available, such as through purchases with retailers and other companies for goods and services, the greater the risk having our information being stolen. It is important to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from financial fraud.
There are several ways to protect yourself and your information from financial fraud. Here are five ways you can start protecting yourself today:
Review and monitor all of your accounts regularly
Take the time to log in and review all of your cash and credit accounts on a regular basis. Monitor the transactions that are coming through your accounts. A general rule should be that the more you use an account, the more that you should be monitoring that account to help you catch fraudulent charges quickly. The longer that you wait to review your account transitions, the better the chances of a fraudulent charge going undiscovered.
Sign up for alerts on all your accounts
Almost all financial institutions offer account security alerts that will allow you to receive text messages or emails in real time based on specific scenarios under which you would like to be notified. Some examples include logging in to your account from an unknown computer or device, charges outside your normal spending habits, and low balance alerts. Currently many financial institutions offer security alerts for account usage from outside your geographic area. For example, should your account have a transaction in New York while you are at the gas station in Los Angeles, security alerts can notify you via text and email of the discrepancy and ask whether you made the purchases and allow you to reject fraudulent purchases immediately.
Never use debit cards for online purchases
No matter how safe you are using your credit card or debit card, there is no way to be absolutely certain that you can avoid credit card fraud all of the time. You can limit your exposure to fraudulent charges by paying with the right card. Most major credit card issuers offer 24-hour fraud protection and identity theft assistance to catch fraudulent transactions as quickly as possible and limit interruptions to your credit card use as possible. Most credit card providers also guarantee the cardholder will not be liabile should a fraudulent transaction occur. However, should you be using your debit card that is attached to your checking account and your information is compromised, the accounts that you use to pay your bills could be drained before you realize the fraud is happening. A Regulation E claim can be filed with your financial institution to dispute such charges, though this can take several days or weeks to be resolved, leaving you without money to pay your bills in the meantime.
Change your account passwords on a regular basis
Your passwords are an important link between accessing your finances and keeping you financial data safe. Changing your passwords frequently reduces your risk of exposure should there be a breach with one of the companies you use or should you unintentionally provide it to a fraudster. Changing your password regularly means that even if an old password is discovered, it will no longer be useful.
Also, do not use the same password for different logins with different companies, should someone gain access to your information they would be able to use it on other sites including but not limited to your email.
Check your credit
You should be checking your credit at least once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax®, TransUnion® and Experian™. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year for your review. This does not entitle you to a credit score, which will come with an extra cost. However, many credit card providers provide monthly credit report tracking tools free for as long as you have an account with them. These programs will vary with every company but are a useful tool to track and watch your credit profile.
There are also credit monitoring services, which, for a monthly charge, alert you instantly of all activity relating to your credit, provide all updates from your creditors, and even lock your credit completely. Assisting in detecting suspicious activity early can help identify unauthorized queries and prevent financial fraud or identify theft.
Take the time to protect yourself and others, know how to recognize the top scams, and report suspicious activity that could be financial scams and fraud to your state consumer protection offices.
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