In light of the recent breach at Target stores across the nation, it’s important we all take a step back and consider how we might protect ourselves against fraud. Our credit cards aren’t the only thing at risk, after all! By establishing some simple good habits, you can avoid many of the pitfalls that allow fraudsters to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers.
Here are five tips to protecting yourself from fraud:
1) Never share your personal PIN or passwords with anyone. Ever.
It’s just not a good idea to share passwords and PIN’s. Protecting these virtual keys is the first step to keeping yourself secure. In fact, experts agree it’s a good idea to consistently update and change your passwords. Think of it as you would think of testing and changing the smoke detectors in your house. Changing your passwords at least once every 60 days would ensure you’re constantly checking in and protecting your sources of secured information.
2) If it sounds “phishy,” it probably is!
Have you ever heard of phishing? No, that’s not a typo. It’s a term that refers to when a fraudster poses as a legitimate company, maybe even one you’ve worked with recently, and pulls personal information from you using whatever information they already have about you. A good way to ensure your online shopping is secure is to stick with trusted merchants. If you don’t recognize the merchant or you’re not sure if it’s the site you meant to make a purchase from, check your browser address window. You should see the letters HTTPS preceding the site address. If you see this, this means the site is secured. You can even check the website certificate to validate the company. If someone contacts you asking for information, even if it seems to be for confirmation of a purchase you made, it’s a good idea to verify the call. You can ask them for their name, the issue they’re contacting you about and the order number, if applicable. Then call the company at their publicly posted customer service phone number. You’ll be able to present your information and verify the inquiry. This way you can be sure you’re working with the correct company and you’ll avoid getting hooked!
3) Handle with care.
How often have you thought about what information is floating around in your old emails? If you’re like most folks, it’s just not something we think about too often. While email is great for tracking down old conversations or keeping files we might need someday, experts agree that saving old email with personal information can be potentially dangerous. If those emails were accessed by a fraudster, there is a good chance that a lot of your personal information would be at their finger tips. So, what can you do? Apart from updating your password regularly, it’s also a good idea to limit how much personal data you send via email. Also, purging and permanently deleting old email and old data will limit what could be found.
4) A friend request from who?
There are plenty of videos on YouTube where pranksters prove just how much they can learn about you just from your social network profiles. It’s pretty crazy. Here’s a perfect example. This is called social engineering. You may not think you have anything to hide, but really it’s not so much about hiding as it is about taking steps to protect yourself. As you can see in the video, fraudsters (or pranksters) can use a surprisingly small amount of information about you to cause a reasonable amount of damage, or embarrassment at the very least. The solution? Consider limiting access to what the general public can see on your profiles. Or, consider making your profiles visible only to family and friends. That way, you know exactly who is seeing your posts.
5) When in doubt, go without.
If the debit card slot on the gas pump looks strange or if you’re uncertain about the ATM you’re trying to use, don’t use them. It’s not worth the risk. Card skimmers are definitely out there and are often used in low traffic, unmonitored areas. It may seem ridiculous, but consider taking a minute to examine the machine you’re about to use. Take a quick look to see if it seems to have been tampered with. If it looks strange, be safe and use another machine. Better yet, try to notify a person in charge. You could potentially be saving yourself and other unsuspecting people from the headache (and pain in the wallet) of fraud!
Hopefully these tips give you a head start to protecting yourself from fraud. If you ever need help or have questions about how you can protect yourself, give us a call at 800-262-4488 and we’ll be happy to help!