Imagine receiving your credit card statement and discovering you’ve hit your limit – knowing you haven’t bought anything. You search down the list for an explanation to what could possibly have happened when the culprit catches your eye. It’s right there in black and white – several enormous amounts you know you didn’t spend.
Unfortunately, this is the reality for many Americans but the threat of credit card fraud can be minimized very easily. Credit card and other personal financial information is obtained and used by criminals in several ways. The most frequently used method is by physically stealing your card. To prevent this type of theft, be sure to keep your wallet in a pocket that buttons, for men; and for women who carry purses, be certain to keep a hand on your purse at all times. Always be aware of your surroundings and protect your personal space when you’re in public. Anyone who is looking to pickpocket is searching for the easiest victim. By letting them visually see you protecting yourself, they will likely move on.
Another common practice in identity theft is taking mail directly from your mailbox, where criminals can use your information to apply for credit cards in your name. Be sure to check your mail every day. If you are going to be out of town, arrange for a trusted neighbor or friend to get the mail out of your box; and never leave mail in your box for the mail carrier to pick up. Take it to the boxes at the post office to insure it is protected from people who may do you harm.
But probably the most common way for credit card information to be stolen and used is online. If you are an Internet user, always confirm the website where you enter your personal information is secure. You can do that by looking at the address bar at the top of your browser. If the address begins with “https:” you can be sure it is a secure site. If the address begins with “https:” do not enter any personal information. If you are ever unsure of a website’s security, find the customer service number and make the purchase by phone. You can also visit websites like sitejabber.com to check user reviews before ordering from a website.
If you ever suspect your personal identification or credit card has been stolen, immediately notify your financial institution. The faster you notify someone, the easier it is to reverse the damage it has done.
If you ever have questions about your financial security, please feel free to visit a Founders office near you. We have special service representatives on hand to discuss all your financial needs and ways to keep your money safe.
This article was written by Reagan Payseur. It was published in Founders FCU Transaction Newsletter (October 2012).