Protect Yourself from Credit Fraud

With the proliferation of camera phones, online shopping and digital data collection of every kind, we've all become more vulnerable to credit fraud than every before. With such dangers looming at virtually every turn, here are some tips to help protect you from theft of your personal information and subsequent credit fraud:

  • To determine if there have been any suspicious activities, obtain a copy of your credit report annually from all three of the major credit-reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
  • If you withdraw money from an ATM machine, ensure that no one is standing behind you. Unscrupulous individuals can easily use cellular camera phones to record your PIN number.
  • When selecting a PIN number, use both numbers and letters. Then, commit it to memory. Don't carry it around in your wallet or purse.
  • If you receive credit card bills in the mail, keep the top portion safely tucked away in a secure place while shredding the rest, or shred the entire thing when you no longer need it.
  • When a credit card in your possession has expired, cut it up before discarding it.
  • If your credit card is lost or stolen, call the card-issuing company immediately.
  • Occasionally mail is delivered to the wrong party or even stolen. If you haven't received your credit card bill when you expect it, call the card-issuing company to report it.
  • When shopping online, ensure that the site you're visiting is encrypted and is displaying the locked 'padlock' icon in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.
  • If you pay for credit card bills (or others, as well) online and have signed up for their paperless service, always check your monthly statements online to ensure that all the transactions listed were indeed made by you.
  • Don't carry more than one credit card with you. Keep it in a separate compartment in your handbag, in a change purse in your bag, or in a pouch attached to the inside of your clothing.
  • When purchasing items at a store, ensure that, after you swipe your card and sign your name, the terminal screen is clear.
  • Change your online banking passwords monthly, as well as passwords you use when paying credit card bills online.
  • If you regularly use eBay or PayPal, sign up for a password protection key for those sites. For a nominal one-time fee, you'll be sent a carry-along key that generates a random six-digit code every 30 seconds. When you sign into your PayPal or eBay accounts, depress the tab on the key and enter the numbers shown along with your regular username and password. The numbers change every time you use it, adding an additional layer of account protection against phishing thieves.
  • Some online credit card companies also offer virtual card numbers, one-time-only numbers generated for each online purchase session that you have.
  • Add a fraud alert message to your credit report at each of the three major agencies so that if anyone attempts to open an account in your name, you'll automatically be notified immediately.


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