Very few people are able to avoid fraudulent emails, texts, or calls. If you think you are one of the lucky few, it most likely just means that at the moment, you didn’t detect what was happening! As fraud prevention experts, we always say that every person we’ve met has either been scammed themselves, knows someone who has been scammed, or will be scammed at some point. Unfortunately, this is a reality, and these thieves are always one step ahead working on the next trick they have up their sleeves. This is bittersweet for us because, of course, it offers job security, but most people in this industry got into it out of passion because they, or their loved ones, were targeted by fraud.
With that being said, I suggest you always be on the defense when it comes to the potential that you might become a part of a fraudulent situation. I’ve put together checklists to help you start the process of protecting your bank accounts, credit cards, and personal identity from hackers and fraudsters. These are a good start but know there is a ton more you can do if you want to create tight security around your money and personal identity.
Bank Fraud Checklist:
- Keep all of your personal contact information up to date so that your bank can immediately contact you if they see unusual activity on any of your accounts. This includes your address, land/mobile phone number, and email address.
- Review your transactions on a regular basis to make sure no one has misused your account. The faster you can uncover that theft has occurred, the more likely the bank can try to figure out who is responsible for hacking your account.
- Create the strongest possible passwords. A strong password means a strong defense against hackers. Strong passwords are 8 or more characters long and include a combination of numbers, symbols, and upper- and lowercase letters
- Do not ever write your PIN number on the back of your debit card – don’t laugh; people actually do this on a regular basis!
- Protect your devices. Keeping your phone, tablet, and computer up to date with the latest browsers and operating systems helps protect against weaknesses that hackers can exploit. Be sure to enroll in automatic app updates so that you routinely receive the latest security updates.
- Know the red flags that signal fraudulent activity. Scammers often pressure people to send money, threaten law enforcement action, or demand gift cards as a form of payment. If you provide your personal data or money to a fraudster, there is often not much your bank can do to get your money back.
- To help you stay current on your transactions and quickly notice fraudulent dealings, enroll in the push alerts that are offered by your bank. In order to quickly review your alerts, request that they are delivered via email or text.
Credit Card Fraud Checklist:
- Frequently review your credit card statement online or on your mobile app, to make sure there is no fraudulent activity or unusual charges on your card; if you see any, immediately report them to the card provider.
- Don’t toss your credit card billing statements or expired/canceled cards directly into the trash. Shred these items to keep “dumpster divers” from getting their hands on your credit card number.
PRO TIP: If your aging loved ones are “computer-friendly”, do your best to get them to go paperless – especially with items that could be sensitive like financial statements and health reports. Remind them that printing out the document to read it, and then throwing it “pre-shredded” into the trash puts them at risk.
- Make sure to confirm the amount on your credit card receipt before signing it. If you get a credit card receipt that has blank areas in it, write $0 in those spaces or draw through them before signing. Otherwise, the vendor could write in an amount and send the purchase to your credit card issuer.
- Only give your credit card number out (or any other sensitive information) on calls that you initiate. Don’t return calls to a credit card issuer’s phone number if it was left on your answering machine or sent to you in an email or text message.
PRO TIP: When you call your credit card issuer’s customer service center, always use the number on the back of your credit card or on their website. Otherwise, you may be using a fake number that will direct you to a fraudulent credit card scam.
- Even if an email looks authentic, do not click on email links from anyone that appears to be your credit card company, bank, or other business using your personal information. These links are often what are called phishing scams.
- Be careful when you’re using your credit card for online purchases. Only enter your credit card number on secure websites that you can be 100% sure are legitimate. To confirm a website is secure, look for https:// in the address field and a padlock icon in the status or address bar of your internet browser.
- Report a stolen, lost, or missing credit card as soon as possible. The sooner your credit card issuer can cancel your card and prevent fraudulent charge the better. Put your credit card companies’ customer service number in your contact database, so you’ll have it handy if your credit cards are ever missing.
- Your credit card number is probably stored on a number of websites online. For instance, you may have your credit card saved on Amazon, so you can make one-click purchases. Be sure to use strong passwords everywhere – but especially online.
- Keep your credit cards safe from thieves by placing them in a wallet or purse close to your body where they can’t easily be snatched away.
Identity Theft Checklist:
- Get your free credit report from annualcreditreport.com and check for discrepancies. Consumers are eligible to receive one free report from the major credit bureaus every year. Take the time to review it thoroughly, if you have any questions call the credit bureau ASAP.
- Remember that your kids aren’t immune to identity theft. Make sure you contact each credit bureau to see if a credit report for your child exists; if so, make sure you review that as well.
- Consider placing a voluntary credit freeze with each bureau. A credit freeze makes it much more difficult for someone to open a new account in your name. Just remember that when you apply for credit, you must unlock the credit freeze.
- Log in and change the passwords on any sensitive websites (insurance, investment, bank, etc.) on a regular basis to make sure that they are secure. I would suggest you also routinely change your username, if possible.
- Review the account activity of any of your financial sites or any additional websites that store your credit card number or other sensitive personal information on a regular basis.
- If your driver’s license is lost or stolen, immediately call your state motor vehicle office to make a report. One of the frequent ways that people’s identity is stolen begins when they lose their license or passport, both credentials list tons of personal information on them.
- Closely review the statements from your health insurance plan, especially if you are over 65 and on Medicare. Make sure the claims that were paid match the care you actually received. On many occasions, when your identity is stolen those that are uninsured or underinsured will take on your identifiable information and use it when they go to see a doctor or are admitted into the hospital.