One of the worst phone calls you can get from your bank is the one that tells you someone has your credit card. How can that be? It’s right there in your wallet. Welcome to the 21st Century and the criminals who live in it. Today’s thief is as tech savvy as any software engineer and he can – and will – employ any innovative means necessary to get your financial information. Here’s what it takes to protect your identity these days.
• Pay attention to the cashier! Often, identity theft criminals are working at your local department store. Once you give your credit card to the cashier, never take your eyes off of it. Do not allow that individual to leave the register with your card.
• Identity theft happens via online transactions. Update all of your passwords regularly. Make sure they include letters and numbers, and go for the longest password the system allows.
• Shred all personal information. If you still receive bills and statements in the mail, make sure you shred them before you discard them. Thieves will happily go through your trash to get your personal information.
• Go paperless with your bills. One less piece of personal information in your trashcan is good for your financial security.
• Check your credit report often. You know your credit profile. Make sure it isn’t a surprise due to identity theft.
• Purchase additional insurance that offers assistance with identity theft restoration. Whether your credit card gets stolen on vacation or at the local market, a little extra insurance can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
• Avoid using your primary checking account when shopping online. Consider setting up a PayPal account or a separate revenue resource dedicated to online transactions. You can keep the minimum balance necessary to cover obligations in these accounts, and you can always transfer money to and from the alternate account if necessary.
• Never give out credit card or personal information over the phone. There’s no way to know whether a phone salesman is legitimate. If you want to do business with a phone solicitor, ask them to send you information through the mail. Ask for website information or other references that you can trace for legitimacy.
• Ignore warning emails from your bank. If you get an email from a bank stating that your password was changed or your credit card has been suspended, close the email and go directly to that bank’s website. If the email is legitimate, the same warning will be directly connected to your account. Never open links in emails with addresses you don’t recognize.
Whatever you do to protect your identity and secure your finances, be aware that 21st Century thieves are always looking for new ways to fool you. Always approach electronic transactions with hyper awareness.
If any little red flag goes up for you, then it is perfectly OK to question the transaction or even contact your bank. How will you protect yourself in the 21st Century?