How to Protect Your Credit and Avoid Being Scammed
January 1, 2014
Vol. 10, Issue 1
For decades, scam artists have tried every trick in the book to swindle you out of your hard-earned money. In the midst of this past holiday season, 40 million people had their debit card information hacked while shopping at Target stores. Chase Bank quickly implemented limits on purchases to avoid additional breaches in identity security. What if your personal and financial information fell into the wrong hands? Would you even be aware that your good credit and reputation were compromised?
Credit card theft is not the only way identity thieves can access your information. Computer hackers are constantly working to find new ways to spy on your privacy, even mimicking keystrokes on your personal computer.
There are steps you should take to prevent identity theft and to alert you to activity on your accounts and credit report that can save you years of hassle and headache to restore your credibility.
Take time to carefully read your credit card and banking statements each month. Catching suspicious activity early is key. Notify your financial institution or credit card company immediately if you see anything unusual on your statement.
When making a purchase, select the “credit” rather than “debit” option for form of payment. Most major credit card companies will reimburse you for charges made on a lost or stolen card. This protection is likely not offered by debit cards.
Keep an eye on your credit report. Free credit reports are available by law form the major credit reporting agencies. You can request a free report from the three leading agencies–TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Visit annualcreditreport.com or call (877-322-8228).
Subscribe to Identity Guard. HSA for America endorses and offers this Identity Guard® ID Total Protection® providing up to $1 million coverage for stolen assets. Identity Guard also provides keystroke encryption to protect you online with secure passwords and account numbers. This exceptional service regularly monitors your credit rating and activity that appears on your credit report to alert you of any suspicious applications for credit.
Never give out personal information on the phone. A reputable business will never ask you for your credit card number, social security number or bank information, unless you are already a customer with trust in the service you are receiving. Check with the Better Business Bureau in your area to verify the ratings of companies, and to report unethical activity. Thieves pretending to represent charitable organizations run rampant during the New Year. Don’t hesitate to ask family members or close friends for help before disclosing this type of sensitive information.
Opt for direct deposit. If you receive any type of regular payments including payroll, social security benefits or pension payments, have these funds direct deposited into a checking or savings account rather than in paper form through the U.S. postal service. It can take weeks or even months to recover a lost or stolen check, so take the safe route with direct deposit.
Freeze your credit. If you know you won’t be applying for credit anytime soon, “freeze” your credit. This prevents any third party from accessing your credit report. You can also contact the three credit reporting agencies to have an “alert” placed on your credit file.
If you decide to apply for credit, you would have to go through the process of “unfreezing” your credit or use your PIN number that was provided to you when you initially had your credit frozen. To properly freeze your credit, you must contact all three credit reporting agencies. Be aware that freezing your credit does not prevent thieves from using credit cards you already have in place.
Be Vigilant For Every Transaction Receipt
When you make an in-store purchase, take a moment to carefully review your receipt before leaving the store. There have been reports of sales representatives adding a “cash back” item on your transaction before pocketing the cash themselves.
If you accidentally leave your card in a store, restaurant or entertainment venue, call your credit card carrier immediately, then call the establishment to retrieve the card if it has been found.
Keep Records In A Separate Location From Your Wallet
Keep a photocopy of every credit or debit card with the contract and contact information of the financial customer service numbers for easy reference. If you lose your card, you’ll have all the numbers at your fingertips to report the loss before damage can be done to your account.
Practice New Year Credit Housekeeping
Start 2014 by reviewing your December statements and ensuring no fraudulent charges have been made. Be proactive in protecting your credit and personal accounts with Identity Guard. It’s a lot easier to protect your good credit now than it is to spend years trying to restore it!
I wish you a Happy New Year and hope 2014 will be prosperous and full of joy to you and your family.
To your health and wealth!
"Wiley and Wiley IV"
President - HSA for America
P.S. - If you need any assistance choosing your health insurance plan (whether shopping on or off your health insurance exchange) we are here to help you – always at no charge. Just give us a call.