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Fraud and Identity Theft
The FBI website states “Internet fraud is the use of Internet services or software with Internet access to defraud victims or to otherwise take advantage of them.” Like me, I’m sure some of you have experienced this at some point with your credit card. If you haven’t experienced it personally, you probably know someone who has. Recent studies show that approximately 15 million Americans fell prey to identity fraud and money theft last year. Most of the fraud and theft was online. The cost of these thefts has not yet been released for 2017, but the report listed that fraud losses for users were estimated at $16 billion in 2016. I may be a bit naïve because I was alarmed when I saw this statistic. Fortunately for the average consumer, we have quite a few safeguards which we can utilize.
How to prevent Identity Theft?
- Close your old accounts. Remember that MySpace account you signed up for years ago? Chances are your account, along with some of your personal information, still exists with them even though you’re no longer using the service. I’m without a doubt guilty of this one.
- Check your credit card statements. Card providers have come a long way and usually contact you when they notice questionable or irregular charges, but it’s a good idea to monitor it yourself as well. Consumers are spotting irregular or fraudulent credit card transactions more quickly, minimizing financial losses. I try to make it a point to either call my credit card provider periodically or check my online accounts to make sure everything looks good.
- Update online account passwords regularly! You may be surprised how many legitimate online, yet potentially susceptible accounts you have such as email, banking, credit cards, retirement plans, social media, and more.
- Be leery of online solicitations, ads, or emails that offer you something that seems too good to be true. Often, just clicking on these links will result in some sort of malware being installed on your device.
- Try to avoid shopping or entering account passwords while connected to a public Wi-Fi Network. Overall, these networks are not secure and susceptible to data theft.
- Make sure your smartphones and mobile devices are password protected. These often contain personal information, including contact numbers, email addresses, and more. If you misplace or forget your device, a password will add an extra layer of protection.
- Run regular credit checks on yourself with one or all three of the major credit bureaus: www.equifax.com, www.experian.com, & www.transunion.com. Credit checks give you a good picture of your overall financial well-being and help you see any obvious issues. If there is a mistake in your information, you have 30 days to request a dispute form from the agency to set your record straight.
Protect your information
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) tracks consumer fraud and identity thefts filed by local consumers. Local law enforcement encourages you to file an Identity Theft Report. For more information, visit Identitytheft.gov, a good resource to help you report and recover from identity theft.
With so much fraud and identity theft in our world today, we all need to be more diligent. Never give out your personal information unless you initiated a transaction or inquiry first. If you hear you won a million dollars, and all you have to do is provide your bank account number, just say NO!-Lonny Dockendorf, Broadband Guy