Identity theft has become a growing concern for consumers. There are important steps you can take to help minimize your risk of becoming a victim of fraud.
Tips to avoid identity theft
With stories of identity theft becoming more common, you may worry about becoming a victim. Several cases of card fraud are a result of counterfeit cards being created using the member's card information. Suspects can obtain this information through various methods. The most popular methods are skimming devices (used on gas pumps and merchant terminals) and data breaches. Unfortunately, criminals are becoming much more sophisticated.
While it's impossible to completely prevent fraud, there's plenty you can do to minimize your risk. Take action to help protect yourself by following these tips.
Choose Credit, Not Debit
Debit cards give you a choice at the cash register: debit or credit. Chances are you've never really thought about the reasons to choose one over the other. However, choosing credit will greatly increase your fraud protection. The credit purchase will be processed through the supporting credit card company, such as Visa or MasterCard, and contain all their fraud protection benefits. The EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) chip cards use a computer chip during transactions that creates a unique transaction code that cannot be used again. Community First offers EMV chip technology on all of our debit cards. Be sure to utilize the chip function whenever possible.
Create Tough Passwords
Common passwords, or passwords that are easy to figure out, will make it easier for criminals to access your information. Here are tips to create a password that's hard to hack:
- Don't use complete words
- Don't use any information about your or your family (i.e. last name)
- Use different characters, cases and numbers if possible
- Have a different password for each online account
Remember, it's much better for you to have to frequently change passwords you're forgetting than it is to have an easy password that others can figure out.
Limit Paper Containing Your Personal Information
Having your personal information on paper can also put you at risk. Credit card offers, bank statements, checks, and even receipts all contain information that a criminal can use. You can limit your risk by not carrying financial documents in your wallet or purse, and shredding all credit card and loan offers that arrive in the mail. It's also wise to sign up for eStatements so you can view finances online.
Beware of Email Phishing
If you get an email asking you to share bank account or other personal information, don't immediately respond. Remember that your financial institution already has your information and would probably never email you asking for it. Instead, call the company sending the email directly. Don't use any contact information within the email.
You can check if an email is linking to a legitimate page by hovering over the link and looking at the URL that appears. If it is the normal link you use to access that company's website, you can feel more confident about clicking on it.
Monitor Your Accounts
If your information does fall into the wrong hands, it's best to let your financial institution know as soon as possible. Online and mobile banking makes it easy to log in and view recent transactions, so make a point to do that daily.
By taking these steps, you can rest easier knowing you're doing what you can to prevent fraud from happening to you. At Community First, we can always offer you tips and insights on this and other aspects of your finances.