Volume 3 Issue 7
Credit Card Fraud, Identity Theft and How to Avoid it
By Lourdes Cortez
Headlines all across the country are filled with stories about credit card fraud and data breaches through major companies, thievery rings and even individuals. In fact, in 2015 the United States was responsible for 47% of the world’s credit card fraud and 31.8 million U.S. consumers had their credit cards breached. With such astounding numbers, it’s important to take action and assume personal responsibility to avoid credit card fraud and identity theft. Credit card fraud can allow thieves to access other types of accounts such as online shopping accounts, email logins, social media accounts and even online banking and investment accounts!
Being proactive is the number one step to ensure that you do not become a victim to credit card fraud or identity theft. One simple thing to remember is that identity thieves do not need your credit card to steal your identity. Sometimes all they need is just one piece of personal information that will give them access to your accounts. This can include a birth certificate, a Social Security card, or a passport.
To start protecting your identity, avoid putting personal information on social media sites and job-search sites such as your full birthday, address, or telephone number.
One of the simplest and easiest ways to protect yourself from identity theft or credit card fraud is purchasing a shredder. Shredders are inexpensive and can be one of the smartest tools to use to protect you and your family. By shredding all personal documents such as bank statements, other financial documents that you do not need to save, and junk mail addressed specifically to you, you make it harder for your information to be accessed.
Next, with an increase in online banking, online shopping and electronic bill pay, the internet has become a significant source for thieves to identify personal information. Always be sure to do all your transactions on a secure wired or wireless network. Also, select strong passwords and change them every now and then. Write down passwords and save them in a physically secure place, instead of keeping them stored on your laptop or a mobile device.
Do not, under any circumstance, log into your personal bank, credit card or financial-related accounts using free Wi-Fi at an airport, a mall, restaurant or other public place.
Also, many scammers and identity thieves send e-mails, texts and social media messages claiming to be reputable financial organizations. Do not fall victim to these requests. Reputable financial organizations will not request personal information via email, text, or social media messaging.
Remember after paying bills online or making purchases, review your transaction history through your online transaction records or statements to make sure nothing looks fraudulent. It’s a good idea to look at your transaction history at least once a week, in an effort to notice any suspicious activity in a timely fashion. There are also payment alternatives, such as PayPal, which allow you to avoid having to give account data directly to a retailer.
You may also consider turning on automatic alerts or notifications, which would notify you via email or text message, of account activity you want to know about. Basically, it’s important to become digitally savvy to avoid fraud and theft.
Despite precautionary measures, if your identity is stolen or you have fraudulent credit card charges, you should react quickly. Contact your financial institution and/or credit card company immediately to begin the fraud reporting process. Always ask for your card to be reissued to avoid additional charges or fraud.
Checking your credit report is also important. Contact all the major credit bureaus to check on any unusual activities. As a consumer, you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus annually. At www.annualcreditreport.com, you can order those reports. This precaution will help you stop unauthorized accounts, and allow you to identify fraudulent reviews of credit history and/or transactions. Depending on the severity of the fraud, you may also want to file both a police report and a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases that can be accessed by law enforcement agencies; in addition, the FTC provides guidance to help victims of identity theft.
The simplest of precautions can make a huge difference in whether or not you become victim to identity theft or credit card fraud. If you need more help, there are reputable websites with information on online credit fraud and identity theft such as the FTC or the US government’s site abut online safety. Finally, ask your financial institution for more tips and information. Using credit, ATM and debit cards are extremely convenient for all of us, but we also must take extra precautions to make sure a thief isn’t able to steal our money or identity.