In today’s highly digitized age, we have become directly exposed to fraud on a daily basis, be it through spam emails, unsolicited telemarketing phone calls, and fake online ads or posts from strangers on your social media pages. With so much of our lives being accessible via the internet, now more than ever, it’s important to protect yourself, your identity, and your wealth from fraudsters. Here are five ways to do that…
1. Use strong passwords
It’s not difficult for the more sophisticated criminals to hack into your online accounts and if they do, the consequences could be devastating. As such, it’s worth taking the time to create complex passwords (and different passwords for each site), especially for banking portals and websites where your personal information can be accessed. Make sure you include a few numbers and symbols in your password for added security.
If you worry about keeping track of them all, a password manager can give you easy access while keeping your credentials safe from criminals. You should also enable two-factor authentication, which requires you to enter the one-time code sent to your cell phone in order to access your account. This serves as an additional layer of security and can save you from fraud even if your password is compromised.
2. Change your passwords and pin codes
If it’s been more than a year since last you changed your online banking passwords and credit/debit card pin codes, now is the time to do so. In fact, it is generally recommended that you update your access information every six months to really minimize the risk of unauthorized access and fraud. Avoid obvious choices like “1234” or “password” and don’t use personal information like your name or birthdate either – this can easily be guessed by someone who has accessed your personal information.
3. Regularly scrutinize your statements
While you cannot completely protect yourself from identity theft, you can from credit card fraud. Every month, scrutinize your bank and credit card statements for strange, fraudulent charges. If you come across one you don’t recognize, waste no time in reporting the suspicious activity. If found to be an unauthorized charge, your bank should reimburse you for it. They have insurance for this very reason.
4. Keep personal information confidential
Always keep your personal information private and under lock and key. Don’t leave personal documents out for others to see and if you want to throw any old ones away (e.g. copies of your ID, bank statements, cell phone contracts, etc.) make sure you shred them so that the information cannot be dug out the trash and captured.
5. Keep up to date on common scams and red flags
Criminals are constantly coming up with newer, more sophisticated scams so it’s important to keep yourself educated and up to date on the red flags to look out for. Websites like www.scambusters.org are an especially valuable resource for this information, giving users comprehensive information on the latest scams and fraudulent tactics.
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