Identity theft is a serious problem as many Americans turn to a digital existence. With credit cards stored on smartphones and more transactions taking place online, credit card data theft has become big business. CNBC reported that 41 million Americans have had their identity stolen, and another 49 million know someone who has been the victim of identity theft.
While there is no way to completely protect your identity, you can take action to reduce your chance of fraud. Here are three easy ways to prevent identity theft throughout the year.
Monitor Your Accounts
Most banks and credit unions provide account holders with online access to their accounts. If your bank or credit union offers this service, you should log on frequently to make sure that your accounts are in order and that no unauthorized charges have been made. Online access allows you to monitor your debit cards, credit cards, and account activity 24/7. When you spot a purchase that was unauthorized, you can act quickly to stop the charge and prevent further fraud.
The Balance points out that you can keep your login information safe by not writing it down and not sharing it with anyone.
Use Your Credit Card
Americans are often cautioned against using credit cards too frequently, but in some cases using a credit card provides you with an added layer of protection against identity theft. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) caps your liability for unauthorized charges at $50. As Investopedia notes, the FCBA allows consumers to dispute charges over $50 if they are unauthorized, display an incorrect date or amount, or contain errors in the calculation.
If you notice suspicious activity, you have 60 days from the time a credit card bill is received to dispute the charges with the issuer. You must make a complaint in writing and mail it to your credit card issuer, with the issuer given 30 days to acknowledge receipt of the complaint.
Protect Your Sensitive Information
One of the most popular attempts by hackers is known as “social engineering.” These attacks frequently take the form of phishing emails that attempt to lure consumers into divulging their secure information. The emails look like they are from your bank, a retailer, or another company that you have recently done business with. If you receive emails like this, the best course of action is to ignore them. If you are concerned, contact your bank or the sender directly. Never follow links in those emails; instead, call the business or type their website directly into your internet browser, then login to check your account.
Another step you can take is to protect your Social Security card. Never carry it in your wallet, and don’t keep hard copies of it in an open area where others can find it or steal it.
Protecting your identity can save you from headaches and prevent the loss of your financial stability in the process. If you believe you may be vulnerable to identity theft or your identity has been stolen, contact Connections Financial Advisors for assistance in protecting yourself and your assets.