CONSIDER THIS: If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you’re not alone. According to a study run by Barclays, most credit card fraud that occurs happens in the United States (about 47 percent); 55 percent of these data breaches or identity thefts are caused by a malicious outsider, followed by an accidental loss of the card (25 percent). EMV chips (which stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa and is a global standard to authenticate and secure global card transactions) have caused a decline in the use of counterfeit cards. These days, 45 percent of fraud is committed online.
Online fraud gives hackers and predators a multitude of ways to get your information. From creating fake forms to posing as legitimate companies, the internet has spawned a wide array of tactics to get your personal and financial information, which means consumers need to remain vigilant.
Despite the prevalence of identity theft, many consumers do not closely monitor their accounts to check for fraudulent transactions. Most figure someone (merchant or financial institution) will let them know if any of their accounts have been compromised.
Some credit unions do provide a service that, should members become victims, helps them restore their identity by placing necessary alerts in their credit files, lodging disputes, coordinating with government agencies, other financial institutions and creditors to help resolve incidents, and even working with law enforcement agencies to help arrest and prosecute criminals.
Still, consumers must do their part to minimize the impact of fraudulent activity and the heavy costs associated with fighting it.
Here are some tips to protect yourself:
Guard your (and your children’s) personal information. You may know this already, but it bears repeating—don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on your checks. Only give it out when absolutely necessary. Ask if there is an alternative way for you to verify your identity. Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information and store personal information in a safe place.
Keep an eye on your accounts. Pay attention to billing cycles. If bills or statements are late, contact the sender. Collect mail promptly and put your mail on hold when you’re away for several days so thieves don’t have a chance to get to account information on mail left in your box. Review your receipts and compare them to your account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions. Shred receipts and credit card offers and other paperwork you don’t need but that could contain personal information.
Be vigilant online. Install firewalls and virus detection software on your home computer and create complex passwords that fraudsters can’t easily guess. Change passwords often, especially if a company or organization has your information and has suffered a database breach.
Order your credit report once a year. Review it to make sure it doesn’t include accounts you have not authorized. Check it more frequently if you suspect someone has gained access to your account information.