How to Protect Yourself Against Personal Fraud

[ 0 ] December 9, 2015 |

When it comes to securing personal information, many consumers know that they should shred sensitive documents and avoid mobile banking over public Wi-Fi connections. But sometimes the threat of identity theft doesn’t come from a stranger: “Familiar fraud” or “family fraud” happens when someone you know uses your personal information to open accounts or make purchases.

Last year, 550,000 fraud victims had their information compromised by someone they knew, according to Javelin Strategy and Research data reported by CNBC.com.

A family member, friend or roommate facing a serious problem — such as poor credit, addiction or habitual overspending — could succumb to the temptation to secretly use your identity to apply for credit. And he or she might already know your birthday, address, phone number and other identifying information, such as your mother’s maiden name.

While no one likes to be suspicious of family or friends, it’s prudent to take some precautions against identity theft around your own home.

Lock up your documents

Store your tax returns, credit card statements, banking and investment account statements, and other sensitive information in a safe or locking file cabinet. Don’t leave these documents loose in your home.

Monitor your accountsPadlock Dec 2015

Review your credit card and account statements regularly so you’ll notice right away if anything is amiss. Report suspicious activity immediately to limit your liability. Institutions like IAA Credit Union can freeze your account to prevent further fraud. You should also call all three major credit-reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on your account.

Guard your mail

Minimize the risk of sensitive mail falling into the wrong hands by using direct deposit for paychecks, tax refunds or benefits checks. If you’re not sure your mail is secure, consider renting a post office box that only you can access.

Watch your purse and wallet

Place these items out of sight when visitors come over to keep your banking and ID cards safe.

Secure your computer and mobile devices

Visitors might accidentally view your account balance or number if you walk away from your computer without logging out. Consider not staying logged in to sites that store sensitive data and use strong passwords — not obvious ones, such as your pet’s name or spouse’s birthday — to lock your computer and mobile phone when you’re not using them.

By limiting the amount of personal information that you share with others, you also limit the risk that anyone — even a trusted relative — will misuse your financial details.

 

Jeanne Lee, NerdWallet

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