Consumers were in shock this past holiday season when they heard sensitive financial information had been stolen from Target store shoppers. The problems got worse when other retailers admitted their systems had also been accessed by criminals.
This recent rash of controversy reminds us all how important it is to protect our personal information, especially when it comes to finances. What can we do to reduce your risk for credit and debit card fraud?
Pay with Cash
For many, paying with cash is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, this trend is what has increased our risk for fraud. Using cash for everything is nearly impossible in this day and age, but if possible, use it when you can. The less you swipe your card the fewer opportunities thieves have to steal your personal information. It might seem paranoid, but assume that every time you pay for something with a card (even if it’s online and the card is not swiped) you increase your risk for fraud and identity theft.
Monitor Your Credit Card Statements
Chances are you have been aware of this tip for years, but it is now more important now than ever before to review your credit card statements each month, if not more often. Most banks and credit card companies allow you to view your charges online. Doing this when you pay bills or even scheduling it into your weekly routine is not a bad idea, at least for the time being.
Monitor Your Bank Balance, Especially If You Pay with an ATM Card
Even if you do not take time to monitor credit card statements more than once a month, you must do so more frequently with your bank account. Using an ATM card exposes your checking and savings accounts to risk, which can be far more detrimental than your credit card.
Once a thief gains access to your checking account it can take several days or weeks to get everything straightened out and replace the money stolen from your account. In the meantime, automatic charges hit your account, causing overdraft fees and bounced checks. Each problem that arises is another issue you’ll spend a few hours fixing. By monitoring your account on a daily basis, you will know the moment a fraudulent charge posts.
Be Wary of Email
The Target hack involved thieves stealing data that included email addresses. This means they are now able to contact consumers via email with very specific information. The personalization of the emails might convince some to view the message as legitimate, furthering their phishing expedition.
If you receive any email at all related to your finances, call the company directly from a phone number you seek on your own. Do not click any links and do not provide any information until you know with 100% certainty you are dealing with a legitimate company.
Consider a Security Freeze
Finally, you have the option of purchasing credit monitoring or requesting a security freeze on your credit report. This means you must go through a bit of hassle when you apply for credit, but chances are it will be worth it to protect your identity.
Has credit card fraud affected your financial well-being? Do you have other financial concerns and you want reliable answers? Contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Gellar to learn more about protecting and restoring your credit.