There are many steps to take in credit fraud protection when you feel your financial information is at risk. Waiting for a problem to occur is not one of them. Credit card fraud costs millions each year.
You shop online, bank online, use credit cards and debit cards in a variety of ways. Information about ourselves is frequently passed through many channels every day. We all have that nagging thought....is my information safe??
Although there is no absolute way to keep your information safe, certainly keeping yourself educated on the matter is your best defense.
Here is a list of tips to help you avoid credit fraud.
The first big credit fraud protection that most of us already know is to
not give out your social security number. Do not carry that card in
your wallet. If there is an instance that someone (such as a new
prospective employer) needs verification that you indeed do have a
social security number, then create a copy for their files. No need to
carry that card!!
Don't give out personal information of any kind unless YOU have initiated the contact or it's someone you know well.
The internet is flooded with those sending poor me e-mails that try to get your info (and money if you fall for it).
Do not allow anyone to write your social security OR a credit or debit card number on your check.
If you haven't already done so, set up online banking and the ability to check other accounts online such as credit cards, gas cards, utilities, ect. Regular examination of accounts is a vital first defense in credit fraud protection.
Viewing your credit reports, if you haven't already done so for credit repair is another important feature to avoid credit fraud. Make sure all basic information is correct: name, address, the account numbers to each of the accounts. If any accounts look foreign call the credit bureau associated with the account.
Chances are that they may be owned by a company
not recognizable to you but the bureau will know what card or store they
are associated with.
Another credit fraud protection
along with keeping that social security number hidden and safe, is a
list with all the account numbers,expiration dates and customer service
phone numbers kept in that same hidden but safe place available in the
unfortunate event that you need them.
All old financial
information, credit card offers not wanted, even old utility bills
should be shredded with a good cross cut shredder. This is especially
important with the financial information of any loved ones that pass
away. This kind of information is very attractive to many with identity theft in mind.
Be wary of those that require filing out applications and their gathering of information. Only give out the information that is necessary for the situation.
more merchants are asking for information even for cash purchases.
Though many times this may be harmless and just a matter of marketing,
getting in the habit of being cautious about how much info is
voluntarily given or asking how it is being used is a good practice in
credit fraud protection.
Collect your mail from your mail box as soon as possible after it has been delivered. There are those that will steal from mailboxes to obtain the information they need about you.
If possible lock your mail box. If you notice any mail not being delivered as scheduled alert your post office promptly. If it is a statement from an account, the creditor needs to be called.
Make sure your computer has the latest anti virus and anti spyware
protection. If you have a wireless net work, make sure that connection
Recently pop-ups and update messages have been used by scammers to distribute malware in the way of messaging you that they scanned your computer and found a problem.
Do not buy the software offered or even respond to these messages (some even suggest free product) as they could be data stealing malware.
When setting up accounts online, do not set a password with information that you do not want others to obtain. Your birth date, your mother's maiden name and the last 4 digits of your social security are key used info to identify you, so you certainly want to keep from using those.
A good practice in credit fraud protection is to use passwords that use random letters and numbers with a sprinkle of mixed case letters. Of course these usually need to be recorded to be remembered and may be a hassle, but not the hassle of credit fraud!!
Change these passwords frequently and store them somewhere safe other than your wallet.
Do not click on links on unsolicited mail. Even those you deal with regularly. Make sure the mail came in the normal fashion.
the address it was sent by. Red flags should fly if it asks you for
your information especially if it's a financial institution verifying
online. This is a big no no. They DON'T do it. Do not call numbers
listed on the email, instead find a statement and call the number listed
Your financial institution will direct you on how to handle anyone misusing their site.
There are many phishing scam sites set up to look like popular sites and companies we all deal with. So being cautious about all mail is a good thing.
Make sure the site is secure (as best as they can be) by making sure the
http is followed by an "S" or a little padlock icon is shown.
Make sure your firewall is up, automatically updated and security level at least on medium if not medium high.
When paying for items online use a credit card or an online paying service such as paypal as these are not directly connected to your bank account as a debit card is. This will give you a bit more protection and keep someone from cleaning you out financially.
If you have an old computer make sure all info is gone before you dispose or pass on to another.
Software can be bought to wipe the hard drive clean.
When disposing of that computer please consider recycling it. The website at the EPA has many options.
Then there are the signs that credit fraud has occurred when someone has been tampering with your information.
These are events that require immediate action on your part.
The financial institution that may be involved and the credit bureaus need to be alerted to the situation.
If you are dealing with a debt collector they need to know you are a victim of fraud.
Fraud alerts will need to be placed on your accounts.
Call the credit reporting agencies
By law you need only call one bureau. The one contacted is required to contact the others about the matter.
yourself a victim of credit fraud and the act of placing a fraud alert
on your accounts entitles you to free copies of your credit report.
Close any accounts that were opened fraudulently.
the financial institutions of any accounts that may be involved. They
will have a fraud department and follow their direction in the matter.
Finally file a police report. You will need this for fraud alert extensions.
Hopefully you won't go through the aggravation of credit fraud but knowing before hand what is involved and practicing credit fraud prevention will help make the fraud minimal.