Financial gurus have been preaching the same top tip for years — maintain a high credit score to secure your financial future. The problem? The more successful you are, the bigger the target on your back when it comes to credit fraud and identity theft. Are you doing all you can to protect yourself?
Credit criminals are always looking for ways to steal personal information, whether it’s your credit card numbers or your entire identity. Take a more proactive approach to protecting your data by paying more attention to your bank statements, avoiding open wi-fi networks and becoming more defensive when people ask for sensitive data. Discover the truth about protecting yourself from fraud in this guide.
Stop Credit Criminals in Their Tracks with These Identity Protection Tips.
Criminals will take any opportunity they can get to steal your personal information. They’ll open accounts in your name, run up balances and destroy your credit. It can take years to recover from identity theft and credit fraud, not to mention theft from your accounts.
The following are some of the things you should be doing to protect your personal information, stopping credit criminals in their tracks:
Open Your Financial Statements
A lot of people toss their bank and credit card statements in the mail pile when they come in, ignoring them until they’re ready to pay the bills or file them away. One of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to open these statements right away and review them for suspicious transactions. Even better, start using your bank’s online portal to review your accounts more often.
Sign Up for Alerts
Some banks and credit card companies offer the option to sign up for alerts, sending you a text anytime a charge is made with one of your cards. You’ll be able to take immediate action if one of your accounts is used fraudulently, minimizing the damage.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi
This is especially important if you’re using an online banking platform or making a purchase. Wait until you can get to a more secure internet connection to access your financial accounts. Open wi-fi networks are easy to access, giving credit criminals an easy path to your personal data.
Buy a Shredder
Make sure all of your bills, pay stubs, and statements are shredded before you toss them. Don’t have time? Keep them all in one place and take them to an office supply store with a shredding service. It may cost you a few dollars, but it’ll cost you a lot less than having to restore your credit later on.
Protect Your Credit Cards
Most stores have you scan your own cards these days. Never let a sales associate walk away with your credit card; it should be in your sight at all times. Watch out for strange pieces of equipment on ATM machines as well. Skimmers are commonly used to steal credit card information, including PIN numbers.
Not everyone who asks for your birth date, driver’s license number or Social Security number really needs it. Challenge anyone who asks for it, asking if the detail is really necessary. You may find that part of the application or paperwork can be skipped or that there is another, safer question they can us for verification.
Be Socially Savvy
It’s strange, but true. A lot of those social media chain messages where you answer a list of questions about your past contain information you might also use to answer security questions. Your entire birthday doesn’t need to be visible on your social profile. Change your passwords regularly and avoid storing credit card information or linking your PayPal account to their payment platforms. Your information could be jeopardized if your account is hacked. Linking accounts can mean that multiple accounts can be hacked at one time.
Be Wary of Phone and Email Scams
If a phone call seems strange, hang up. You can always call your bank or credit card company directly, at the numbers on your cards or statements, to confirm whether or not a call you received was legit. Remember, the IRS will never call you unless they’re returning your call. They always communicate via regular mail.
Email scams are also very common now. Emails from legitimate corporations will not contain a litany of grammar and spelling errors. Take a close look at the sender’s email address as well. They’re sometimes designed to look close to the correct name, but are often misspelled. The same goes for the website links in the emails, which often redirect you to sites that look legit, but are really designed to capture your personal details.
The more conscious you are of how your personal information is used, the easier it is to deflect credit criminals. Don’t delay if you think you’ve been victimized. Call your bank, credit card companies, and the police as soon as possible. The faster you act, the less damage the criminals will be able to do with your identity.