Protect Your Finances Against Fraud and Theft
Anyone who has ever experienced fraud, identity theft, or theft in general can relate to the feelings of helplessness and despair that arrive from taking what you have worked hard for to accumulate. And after over a year working in the banking industry there are a few guarantees that I have found when it comes to finances.
#1 It's not IF you will ever experience fraud or theft, it's when. There are many things that we can do as consumers and account holders to protect ourselves from theft. Unfortunately there are too many ways for someone to get hold of your information and use it for nefarious purposes.
#2 Once fraud occurs it is extremely challenging to get your life back in order. It takes weeks or months to get the damage done by fraud corrected.
#3 The majority of bank account holders have little or no idea what is actually going on in their accounts. I have seen first hand cases where fraudsters had been making small deductions from a person's account for YEARS undetected.
What Can We Do??
Do not connect to unknown or unsecure wi-fi - Connecting to an "open" wireless connection that does not have a security code log in is potentially the most dangerous thing you can do. Without going into too many details I will just state in plain English that your information is not secure and should you log in to your bank account or anything with private and personal information you are putting yourself at an unnecessary risk
Security for your home computer - Making sure that you have your firewall up and running, and having some sort of security program running on your computer is essential. If you are logging in to your bank account online (which most banks are trying to urge customers to use online services to cut down on costs) you may be vulnerable to a breach.
Update log in information frequently - AFTER running a security sweep on your computer update your log in id, pins and passwords frequently. That way should someone get a hold of your online access information it won't be good for very long.
These are the basics that everyone doing any level of online banking should adapt and put into place immediately to help protect your personal information.
Some Other Ideas
Buffer your funds from fraudsters - This is a simple trick to protect you from serious losses. I work out of two checking accounts I have one account where my direct deposit goes, this account does not have a debit card issued for it, and there are no payments coming out of this account whatsoever. I have a second account that I have a debit card, make my payments out of. The purpose of this is that should my debit card information get compromised there is rarely more than 50 or 60 dollars in the account at one time unless I am on my way to make a payment.
NOTE - Some things to keep in mind if adapting this strategy; avoid automatic and ACH type payments. This would mean something that runs directly on your account and routing number verses your debit card. The reason for this being is that if a payment is rejected off your debit card there are no fees associated. If something is running as an ACH transaction and is rejected there is typically a 30 - 40 dollar fee. As a rule I do not give out my account and routing number, and this includes checks. The reason for this is that ACH type payments are very difficult to stop, and it is nearly impossible to prove fraud if a company has shown that they had ACH permission, not to mention the damage that the fees can do to your account.
Prepaid Cards - Personally I love prepaid cards, i have nearly all my online transactions, or reoccurring payments linked to prepaid cards. Because personally I can not guarantee at any point during the month that the necessary funds are going to be available, nor guarantee that the funds in my account are not needed elsewhere. That way the funds are only deposited and therefore collected when I make the transfer onto the prepaid cards. This also functions as an additional buffer as I typically only leave the change from a dollar on the cards unless a payment is being made.
Fraudsters are smart and will do anything to get your personal information. I read a report recently that there were reports of fraudsters piloting drones broadcasting a wi-fi signal stating that it was (insert famous fast food or coffee house name here) hoping that people would log in to their wi-fi and hand over all of their information.
And I'm sure everyone has seen the commercials for the aluminum wallet on television, where people were able to simply walk past you with a handheld scanner (about the size of a cell phone) and pull your card information right out of your pocket (or purse)
It's a scary world out there, but you can protect yourself if you are vigilant in maintaining your checking account and cautious to the information you put out into the world.