This post was sponsored by Chase. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The College Investor.
How would you feel if you spent years building up your personal assets and then in one swoop everything you worked for came crashing down? If you think something like that could never happen to you, you’re wrong.
The 2015 Identity Theft Study showed that a total of $16 billion dollars was stolen from over 12 million Americans in 2014. That number was only slightly lower than the $13.1 million Americans that had fallen victim to identity theft the year before.
It’s easy to “block-out” fraud prevention advice, but the potential cost is just too high. Even people who are aware of the risks aren’t taking all of the necessary steps to help protect themselves, especially since there are a number of things you can do to help prevent fraud on your accounts and improve your “Fraud IQ”.
Here are some easy steps that you can take to protect yourselves from identity theft and fraud.
Monitor Your Financial Statements
One of the absolute most important things you can do is monitor your financial statements. This includes looking over bank and credit card statements regularly, and getting a copy of your credit report every 3-4 months. Be sure to monitor your accounts every few days, or more frequently during busy shopping seasons. Be sure to contact your bank’s customer service center immediately if you spot anything inaccurate or unauthorized.
You can also go sign up for account alerts for your credit card and bank accounts so that you know right away when something isn’t right. If you get a fraud alert from your bank, you can immediately take action.
(Tip: You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus every year. By getting one of these reports every four months, you’ll never have to pay to check your report.)
Also, make sure your contact information is up to date. This will ensure your card company or bank is able to reach you in the case of suspected fraud. A lot of times people move or change phone numbers, and they never let their bank know. Spend 5 minutes and ensure all your information is up to date.
Go Paperless & Shred Paper Documents
Do you toss any of your bills or statements in the trash? I’ve been guilty before and you probably have been too.
Slow down and take the time to shred documents before throwing them out. You can get a basic shredder for under $30. If you don’t have one, it’s well worth the investment.
Another simple thing you can do is go paperless! This is often overlooked but by going paperless you’ll have a lot less documents floating around. (Which means less of a chance for one of those documents to fall in the wrong hands.)
Get a Card with Embedded Chip Technology
The EMV chips that you’re seeing on (most of) your credit or debit cards are an added layer of security. The chips produce a single-use code to validate your transactions.
Use the chip instead of swiping your card whenever possible.
Create Strong Passwords
Another thing we’ve all been guilty of one time or another – using passwords that contain our spouse or kid’s name or birthdays. Don’t do it!
Make your passwords stronger.
It can be a pain to remember so many different passwords, especially if they’re randomly generated, but this is one area of extreme importance. (Especially when it comes to things like banking passwords.)
Tip: Make your password a phrase, not just a single word. For example, consider using the phrase, “Happy Birthday 1” instead of a single word. The length, spaces, and number all make your password much more secure.
Beware of Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are abundant. They can range from fake bankers contacting you vial email to ask you to update your account information or even a scammer posing as an IRS agent, again, asking for your personal information. Remember that phone call phishing scam we recorded during tax time? Too many people fall for that type of call.
Since phishing scams are so common and at times, so professionally done, it’s important that you never give your personal information via the phone or through email. (Unless you’re the one who has made the call to the number you know is legitimate.)
Put a Password on Your Phone
How much of your personal information is stored on your phone? Probably a lot – just ask yourself if you have a banking or finance app that you use. With all of the apps, a stolen phone could be a gold mine for an identity thief.
Put some type of password on your phone so that if it’s lost or stolen nobody can access it. Remember, mix it up here as well, or add TouchID on an iPhone so you can have your fingerprint as your passcode.
Choose a Bank That Will Help You Fight Fraud
Let’s say that you do fall victim to fraud and an unauthorized user gains access to your bank or credit card accounts. You need a bank that’s going to be on your side.
One bank that wants to help you fight fraud is Chase. Here are some of the fraud detection tools that Chase offers:
- Zero-Liability Protection – You won’t be held responsible for fraudulent charges made with your card or account information.
- 24/7 Fraud Monitoring – Chase has specialized tools to monitor for fraud and may text, email or call you if there is anything unusual on your account.
- Embedded Chip Technology – A chip adds another layer of security to cards when used at a chip card reader. During the chip transaction, the chip produces a single-use code to validate the transaction – further protecting cards from unauthorized use.
- Chase Won’t Let Fraud Slow You Down – Chase ships you a new credit card immediately if fraud is confirmed or if your card is lost or stolen. If you’re traveling and away from home, Chase will work with you to authorize the credit card purchases you need.
It’s important that you’re proactive and that you have the fraud protection you need, should something happen to you. Check out the features and tips that Chase offers to keep fraudsters at bay. Check out the features and tips that Chase offers to keep fraudsters at bay.
Find Out How Susceptible You Are To Identity Theft
If you’re wondering if you have the proper steps in place to help prevent identity theft, you can take a short quiz from Chase and USA Today.
I was surprised that I, too, had a couple areas to work on. If you want to see how you stack up, you can take the “What’s My Fraud IQ?” Quiz here. Even I only got 6 out of 9 correct – so I definitely have room for improvement.
Share your results in the comments and share what you’re doing to help keep your money safe.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.