How to protect yourself from financial identity theft and compromised credit

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It’s happened to a lot of us. Financial identity theft. There you are, minding your own business when Boom! An unknown charge appears in your account. If you’re lucky, you’ve caught it quickly, and can work to resolve the issue before the thief can drain your funds, but for so many more, it can take weeks or months to get everything back to where it should be. And worst case: you’re out of money until it’s sorted out.

Credit and debit card fraud—a term for all types of crime surrounding personal finance theft—is all too common; in fact, 46 percent of all Americans have been victims of this credit card in the past five years, costing tens of billions of dollars in losses. Conversely, only 21 percent of Americans have had to deal with debit card fraud.

 

How Financial Identity Theft Occurs—And How To Stop It

It can happen in any number of ways—the waitress takes a little too long with your card while checking you out; the gas pump at your local station has a hidden skimmer; your information is hacked online and sold to the highest bidder. It’s a threatening world out there; but there are a few ways you can help prevent becoming a victim to financial fraud yourself.

Check your credit report and bank accounts often. Only by keeping an eye on your financial accounts will you know if anything is unusual—and be able to catch it early if it’s not yours. One easy way to monitor your bank account on the go is to use the My Mobile Money app!

Keep your eyes open.With new technology, it’s trickier than ever to spot something wrong with that credit card scanner, but it’s worth checking, just in case. Try to keep your card in your own hand as much as possible; when it leaves (like with a waiter or bartender), make sure you keep receipts and tabs on how much you spent. Also, make sure you examine gas pumps, ATMs and store swipers for skimmers that might be fake—and just waiting for you to fall into the trap.

Shred; don’t toss. When you take your trash to the curb, are you also putting your valuable information up for grabs? If all it would take for your bank statement, credit card bill or medical info to fall into the wrong hands is those hands grabbing a bag from your dumpster, you should rethink how you handle your most sensitive information.  Instead, invest in a shredder (anywhere from $15-$100 at most stores) and make that information impossible for a thief to piece together. It’s a small investment with a big prevention return.

Sign up for watchdog services.There are any number of services that will monitor and protect your credit; some with financial guarantees in place should anything happen. At SC Telco, the Rewards Checking account comes with ID Protect—a program that includes full protection through Credit File Monitoring, Total Identity Monitoring, access to a 3-in-1 Credit Report, Credit Score, Cellular Telephone Protection and more. And, through their My Mobile Money app, SC Telco offers Fraud Notifications, which let you know if something unusual hits your account, so you can handle it quickly and efficiently.

To best protect your financial assets, make sure you take these preventative measures—hopefully, they can help you avoid becoming a percentage point in next year’s credit fraud survey.