When a stranger gets ahold of your personal information and uses it fraudulently, it’s called identity theft. It can be quite scary, especially if the thief maxes out your credit card, or even worse, attempts to open new accounts in order to withdraw large amounts of money or write blank checks.
But there are a few different things you can look out for, and some actions you can take, to help prevent identity theft from going on too long, or even happening at all.
Online and mobile banking is a fast and easy way to monitor your account activity. By signing up for eStatements, you can greatly eliminate the chance of sensitive information getting lost or stolen in the mail. With eStatements, you can easily download and save your statements to your computer for your records. Online and mobile banking also allow you to check balances whenever you’d like, making it easier to detect suspicious activity. Taking it one step further, you can sign up for account alerts that will notify you when contact information or passwords have been changed or if they have been accessed from a new device.
You can also set up a travel notification to alert your bank that you will be traveling outside of your usual area. That way, your bank won’t raise any red flags about an unfamiliar location and place a temporary block on your cards until they can contact you. Travel alerts can provide more peace of mind, knowing you can travel without suddenly losing access to your cards until you can get in touch with your bank. It’s also important to be aware of unsecured Wi-Fi if you’re going to be signing into your accounts from new locations.
Another simple thing you can do to prevent fraud is being mindful of your documents. Always shred statements, receipts, or any other financial paperwork you no longer need to keep to make sure no one will be able to get ahold of them.
While these precautions can help prevent identity theft, sometimes they’re not enough. If you’re a victim of, or suspect identity theft, setting up a fraud alert can help minimize damage. Simply contact a credit reporting agency – TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian – to alert them of the attempted fraud or fraudulent activity. If you become a victim of identity theft, you can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Once in effect, your identity will need to be verified before any type of loans or new accounts can be created in your name. It’s also important to contact your bank to replace any debit and credit cards, and work with them to help prevent it from happening again.
When it comes to preventing identity theft, stay alert and continue to monitor your credit activity. The faster you catch it, the smaller the potential impact will be on your credit score and your day-to-day life.
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