March is International Fraud Prevention month and we thought this would be the ideal time to remind consumers of a few things that can help prevent them from falling victim to thieves. These are all common sense tips, but we all let our guard down from time to time. A refresher course is always a good thing.
Shred the Past
Cleaning out your past months statements? Tossing out those bank statements from several years ago? Don’t just toss them into the trash can – shred them. It’s the sure fire way to ensure there’s not important information flying, literally, in the wind. If you don’t have a shredder, you should know they’ve become quite affordable in recent years. You can easily pick one up at your local office supply or department store for less than $50 or less.
Pass the PIN
Our PIN numbers for debit and credit cards should be as protected as our social security numbers. Even if a thief doesn’t have your physical credit card, you never know what kind of damage he can do with just that three digit number. Never give it out to any bank employee, either. There’s not a reputable bank in the world that will ask you to reveal it. If they do, you should report them to the branch manager. Also, no website or sales person should request this number, either. Again, if they do, report the website or sales person – you can be sure they’re up to no good.
Too Good to Pass Up
If it’s too good to pass up, odds are, it’s exactly what you should do. Trust us – you can’t buy the new iPhone or the latest Mercedes for pennies on the dollar. An unfamiliar outfit that’s offering is looking for more than just a few pennies – they’re looking to take over your available credit balance or wipe out your bank account. Even on the off chance this is a reputable deal you’re being offered, it will still be available long enough for you to verify the credentials of the company offering it. Check with the Better Business Bureau, do a Google search – there are many ways to cover yourself these days. Take advantage of them.
If a charge looks suspicious, if there’s an ATM withdrawal that you know you didn’t make, if there are suspicious events on your credit card statement – contact the bank or your credit card company. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get it resolved and if there is fraudulent activity taking place, the less damage there will be. The last thing you want to face is having your identity stolen and despite the advances in technology, this still happens. There are still theives who are technologically savvy and make it happen every day.
All in the Family
This is actually the hardest part of dealing with fraudulent activity. Family members actually account for about 30% of these types of crime. There are few things more difficult than turning in a family member who’s stolen a credit card or a family member’s identity. Fortunately, banks and credit card companies know this and when these types of crimes occur, they immediately take over the investigation and make their determinations based on little, if any, input from the victim.
The credit card companies are doing their part, too. MasterCard‘s statement that was released earlier this week reads, in part,
MasterCard cardholders should be assured that MasterCard would never call, text or email to ask for information such as credit card number, expiry date, PIN or the Card Validation Code (CVC) security code on the back of their card
said Rick Rennie, Vice President of Payment System Integrity. He goes on to say that in today’s modern world of email, texting and social media, consumers must remain dilgent in their efforts of protecting their private information.
Visa also offers a few of its own tips, including warning consumers that if they followed an email link to a website then and provided card data that later seemed suspicious, they should immediately contact their credit card issuer so that steps can be taken to protect their accounts. It also recommends keeping anti-virus, anti-spam and anti-malware current. Ensure the firewall on all computers are installed and operating.