7 Simple Tricks to Defend Your Credit and Identity from Fraud (tis the season!)
The holiday season is upon us and black Friday is right around the corner. Every year with the increase in holiday spending transactions, there is an increase in financial information being stolen and used illegally. Today more than ever, we must be keep our financial information secure from thieves who are becoming smarter and using new technology to steal sensitive information. Whether you want to take advantage of a special sale or you are planning your routine spending, here are 7 ways you can protect yourself over the holidays.
1. Check your credit report
That’s right, check your credit report! You can check your credit report FOR FREE to receive all information regarding credit attached to your name once every 12 months from each of the 3 credit bureaus. Those credit bureaus are Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. Be careful to only use each bureau once every 12 months to avoid unnecessary charges to see your report. When you check your report verify that you aware of each piece of credit history on the report. As a student you may find that something has been opened in your name even if you don’t own a credit card, so check it just to be sure. After all it’s free!
2. Monitor your bank accounts
Utilize online banking to have real time information on purchases made with your accounts. Most institutions today have some sort of online or mobile banking. If you see any suspicious activity, report it to your bank right away and put a freeze on your accounts.
3. Don’t click links from senders that you don’t recognize
If you receive a link from someone you don’t know during the holiday season then chances are that it is an attempt to steal your information. You may already be aware that there is a large amount of links to special deals that are not really from the advertised seller. The best way to sniff out a fraudulent links is to check if the web browser has a protection verification in the web URL. If the URL is not secure, then you are not secure and you should close the page right away. If you the deal is real, you should be able to go directly to the retailer’s website and find the deal that way.
4. Set limits on your debit/ credit card spending through your bank or credit union
Check if your financial institution is able to set strict limits on your spending ability. This is an easy way to limit that amount of money that a thief is able to access in the event that your information gets in the wrong hands.
5. Mind data breaches
It is no secret that retail stores have had credit card information stolen on a large scale https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/target-settles-2013-hacked-customer-data-breach-18-5-million-n764031. Though this may be farfetched, be mindful of data breaches over the holidays. The faster you are aware of fraudulent activity the faster you are able to issue a credit freeze on your accounts. See our prior blog post about placing a free freeze on your credit at http://blogs.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial/2018/10/02/new-credit-freeze-law/
6. Watch Out ATMs
Be careful of “skimmers”. Skimmers are devices that thieves place on ATMs and credit card readers to copy credit card information. Thieves then take that information to make purchases. Be mindful of where you are swiping your credit card. If your debit/ credit card utilizes an insertion chip, then you have an added layer of protection.
7. Be careful with public wifi
Public wifi connections are often not secure (or encrypted). This means that hackers and thieves have the ability to access your devices while they are connected to public wifi. During the holiday season, be extra mindful of this especially when dealing with finances on your devices.
Thieves are on the hunt this holiday season, and will try their best to steal your financial information. Whether you want to make an extra purchase this holiday season or you just plan to make typical purchases, take a few extra steps to protect your financial and personal information. Happy holidays!
Peer Financial Counselor II