5 Ways to Prevent Credit Fraud

By Tracy L. Hirsch

Almost anyone can become a victim of credit fraud. In the past few years, we have all heard numerous reports regarding stolen credit cards numbers, checking account numbers, and even social security numbers.
Many of us have friends and family members that have had to deal with cleaning up after some type of identity theft. Even some of the most popular chain stores, like Target, have had their own issues.
While it’s not always completely unavoidable, there are certain ways that you can proactively protect yourself from falling victim to this type of theft. Here are the top five:
1.) Shred documents that you don’t plan on keeping.
Believe it or not, most people don’t realize that bank statements, tax documents, and monthly billing statements often have all of the information necessary for an individual to steal your identity. The biggest culprit is tax documents, as most of them have your social security number on them.
If you need any of these hard copy documents, be sure to put them in a locked file or a safe. However, if you have them safely stored on your computer and an external hard drive, shred each financial document before putting them in the trash or recycle bin,
2.) Keep your private information “close to the vest.”
Never give personal information, such as date of birth, social security number, or any bank account or credit card information via e-mail, text, or online form.
If that information is needed, it’s best to mail it, drop it off in person, or give it over the phone only if you trust the person retrieving that information.
Never give that information to someone who calls you. If someone calls saying that they’re from your bank or tax office, tell them that you’re going to hang up the phone and call the phone number that is listed on their website or Google Business page.
Once you do that, ask if someone from that institution was trying to reach you, and if so, why they were asking for that information.

While you can’t completely prevent identity theft or credit fraud 100% of the time, there are things that you can do to greatly minimize the risk.

3.) Protect your devices.
Make sure that you always arm your computer with up-to-date anti-virus protection. This greatly decreases your chances of getting a computer, which can steal personal information from your computer.
In addition, be sure to add passwords to all laptops, tablets, and smart phones, so that private information cannot be accessed if those devices get into the wrong hands.
4.) Only shop on secured websites.
It’s okay to shop online, but make sure that you are shopping on protected websites. If there is an “https” with a padlock icon next to it in the domain name at the top of the page, then your information will be encrypted and you are safe from hackers.
If you only see “http” on a website domain without the padlock icon, then don’t make purchases from that particular site.
5.) Check your credit report.
Everyone is entitled to one free credit report per year. Arm yourself with information! Go to annualcreditreport.com to verify your credit accounts and look for errors and suspicious activity.
In the unfortunate event that you or someone you know falls victim to credit fraud, you need to act quickly. Here’s a helpful article on what to do if you suspect identity theft.

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