Know Before It's Too Late: Protecting Yourself from Fraud
Many times, people have the It-Can-Never-Happen-To-Me mentality about fraud. Unfortunately, this is a growing problem. Although not always completely preventable, there are many techniques and multiple tricks to keep you safer and out of harm’s way. With more and more cases and more and more incidents, it is important for you to be prepared rather than be penniless.
How Does Fraud Happen?
A very common way for fraud to occur is through theft. From old-school purse snatching to new-school account hacking, there are too many ways your information can be disseminated. Whether it is from a bank statement you threw away, from an internet scam that so convincingly duped you or from a dishonest clerk who snapped a picture of your numbers, anything can happen and your information can be shared, used and violated in an instant.
Types of Fraud
Don’t fall for schemes that sound too good to be true. Learn the types of fraud that exist so you don’t get caught in a bad situation.
- Credit Card Fraud. Credit Card Fraud is one of the easier types of fraud to occur. Somehow, someone stumbled upon your credit card information and they have been using your cards and infiltrating your accounts.
- Phishing. Phishing is a new trend where one acquires sensitive and important information from you via electronic communication. In these situations, someone might send you a faulty email with a link including malware or might con you into giving away your information. Remember, banks, credit unions and other trusted institutions won’t ask you for such personal information over email simply out of the blue. Be smart. Be aware. Don’t give in to the bait.
- Hacking. This is where someone will intentionally gain illegal access to your online accounts, passwords, activity and systems.
- Identity Theft. If someone gets in contact with your Social Security Number and uses it in faulty ways, act quickly – he or she may be ruining your credit score, your IRS payments and, worse, your credibility.
- Charity Fraud. Many times when something terrible happens, many small charities pop-up to “help” the disaster. If you plan to donate, make sure you fully know where and how your money is helping the cause.
What Can You Do?
Now, this may sound distressing and discomforting, however, it simply means that you must be precautious, proactive and – ultimately – smart. There are many ways to help prevent fraud. Here are some tips and techniques to help keep you out of danger.
- Keep your information in your own hands to keep your money in your wallet. Giving your information and account numbers to others allows for a greater number of people access. This means, don’t lend your card to anyone or leave it lying around the house. If your number falls into the wrong hands, you could find yourself in a not-so-great situation.
- Shred your cards and sensitive documents when you no longer need them. Whether it is old bank statements, credit card applications or anything with your personal information on it, this prevents a thief finding your documents and using your personal numbers for their personal gain.
- Constantly monitor your bank and credit card statements. Check regularly to see if something goes awry. If something does, you’ll be able to figure out immediately and seek help.
- Know where your information is going. Make sure that the organizations and companies that you give your information to are legitimate and credible sources. If you don’t know them, don’t trust them.
- Be aware of Phishing or Online Gimmicks. Don’t give in to spam or pop-up perfect-trip giveaways or you-just-won sweepstakes. If they ask you for your information, it is likely a scam.
- Guard your online Information. With online presence being such a prolific aspect to the daily routine – shopping, banking and everything in between – many forget that their information is stored on their usual sites. Make sure you clear your login and passwords, especially if you’ve used a public computer.
- Don’t over-share on social media sites. With the prevalence and use of social media in today’s society, some people forget its open, free and public nature. If you post something that you don’t want the cyber world to see – don’t post it! The second you post something even remotely harmful, you’ll feel the effects soon enough as people start to see and share your information.
- Safely dispose of personal information. Before you give away your computer or cell phone, make sure you wipe it clean of any personal information. If your electronics are recycled, your information may get out to the public. Use software to clear your hard drive completely if you’re attempting to sell it back. If not, drill two holes into the hard drive and your information will be wiped clean forever.
- Save your receipts. Compare them with your statements to make sure there isn’t anything different or unusual.
- Only bring the card(s) you need for the occasion. To minimize the amount of risk, make sure you don’t have any excess cards on you. Also, try not to carry your cards in your wallet or purse just in case of theft.
- Don’t write your account numbers or information on the back of an envelope. This prevents people from seeing and stealing your information.
- Notify your card issuer when you are traveling or change your address. This will make it easier to detect if there is a strange charge or transaction.
How to Report Losses or Fraud
Call your card issuer as soon as you realize your card is lost or stolen. Many companies have a 24-hour line that will assist and walk you through the process. Remember to keep this number in a secure spot so if something bad happens, you are able to retrieve it. If you gain information about someone using your Social Security number, call the three major credit bureaus immediately. These are crucial numbers that should stay in your possession.
Remember: Fraud is a very serious issue and happens more than you think; however, with the proper steps and precautions, you’ll be able to keep your information in your own hands.