Unfortunately, fraudsters are out there. They want your money, your identity, or both, and they’re getting more sophisticated all the time. There’s a wealth of opportunity for swindlers to take advantage of people because so much of what we do is now online. There are ways for you to protect yourself, both by taking action and being aware of what’s going on.
Here are 8 ways to protect yourself from personal financial fraud.
1. Protect your identity
Getting someone’s identity is often the first step to running up enormous charges in their name. Scary as it is, you can go bankrupt if someone opens credit cards using your ID and maxes them out before you’re even aware anything has happened.
Dispose of any documents with your name or other information carefully. Shred your mail and dispose of records securely. It may take extra time, but these small steps can save you a world of headaches.
2. Don’t click on unknown links
Whether sent to you in an email or via text message – just don’t click! It’s a popular tactic for fraudsters to send a normal-looking link that’s harmful. Before you know it, you’re freely giving away your information. Just don’t do it. Instead, take the extra step to visit a website through its legitimate homepage or call customer service if you suspect a link is a scam.
3. Check your bills
With so many bills offered online, it’s easy to forget to review them. Make sure to check your statements for accuracy every month. It’s the only way to identify fraudulent charges and correct them.
4. Don’t put your personal information online
Think of this like putting the toothpaste back in the tube – it just can’t be done once you’ve squeezed it out. The same goes for putting your personal information online. Fraudsters can use something as innocuous as your birthdate or workplace to verify your identity and expose you to financial fraud.
5. Never give up information over email or on the phone
The pandemic made us especially susceptible to being taken advantage of because so much was changing at once. Extra government programs were in place, vaccination campaigns were underway, and all of this administration meant more phone calls, text reminders, and emails.
Trustworthy institutions typically do not ask for your personal information in these ways. If you get a suspicious phone call or email, hang up, and call them directly. That extra step can save you a lot of money and stress. It’s too easy to fall victim to one of these scams, especially if the caller claims that a loved one is in trouble and needs help – a common tactic these days.
6. Be cautious when shopping online
Fraudsters are getting savvy when it comes to tricking us online. It’s not uncommon for a fraudulent website to appear exactly like a legitimate place to shop. Double-check web addresses and question deals that seem good to be true.
Be aware of spelling mistakes or awkward grammar on these websites. They’re often a giveaway that it’s a lookalike designed to trick you into handing over your information.
7. Check your credit report periodically
If you live in a region where you can get free credit reports that don’t harm your credit score, take advantage of this from time to time. It’s an excellent way to know if loans have been opened in your name or to be alerted to any other suspicious activity.
8. Set spending limits on your credit and debit cards
Most cards can be set up to alert you of purchases, and you can set the parameters of when that happens. If someone has your credit card information, it’s not uncommon for them to run through several smaller purchases as a sort of test to see if you’re paying attention. Set up spending alerts so you can stop them in their tracks.
It’s a big, connected world, but modern technology has also made us more susceptible to fraud. However, with a few good habits and suitable tools and practices, you can protect yourself from personal fraud and continue enjoying online life’s conveniences.