Financial fraud and identity fraud are one of the fasted growing forms of fraud. The first line of defense to protecting yourself begins with you. Here are some steps you can take to help you protect and fight against financial and identity fraud.
1. Review and Protect Your Information –
The first line of defense in financial fraud is to periodically check your credit report to ensure all your information is accurate. Remember there are three credit agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) which all operate independently. Make sure you check your credit report from all three because they may each have different information.
2. Destroy Credit Card Mail Offers and Old Financial Documents –
If you receive direct or pre-approved solicitations in the mail for new credit cards and do not use them make sure you shred or tear them up before throwing them away. In addition, shred all financial papers including cancelled checks, old bank account statements, or any document with your identity.
3. Watch Out For E-mail or Telephone Fraudsters –
Never give your personal or financial information out on the internet or phone unless you initiated the contact. This is especially true with giving out your social security or credit card number. Watch out for e-mails from fraudsters that state they need your account information or credit card number to update your account with your bank or an online company like e-bay. Never give out personal information over e-mail! Many times these e-mails will have links for you to click on that take you to a website that looks authentic. However more times than not, it is a scam to get your personal and financial information.
4. Social Security Number –
Keep your social security number in a safe place with other financial documents. DO NOT carry your social security card in your wallet and remember to shred your old social security statements. It is also recommended to not store your social security number on your computer as hackers may have access to it. Never print your social security number on your checks, credit card or drivers licenses.
5. Incoming / Outgoing Mail –
Pick up incoming mail promptly and do not send outgoing mail in your residential mail box. Make every effort to keep your mail as securely as possible when it leaves your house.
6. Monthly Bills –
If your monthly bills stop arriving, take action quickly. Notify the company right away. Also, review your monthly statements promptly and if you see charges or items on your bills that you do not recognize get them resolved immediately.
7. Credit Cards / ATMs –
Report lost or stolen credit cards and ATM cards immediately. Be sure to carry the 1-800 numbers of your bank and credit card company in your wallet.
8. Age Matters –
If you are over the age of 50 you are more likely to be targeted for financial fraud. Therefore, keep this in the back of your mind as you handle your daily tasks and personal information.
Most analysts forecast financial fraud and identity thief to cause financial loss to hundreds of thousands people in the next five years and beyond. While fraudsters are very slick and you can never be 100% safe the steps above can assist in you significantly deterring yourself and family from being a victim.