The numbers don’t lie: the problem of credit card fraud and identity theft is still prevalent. In fact, the 2016 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research shows that there are more victims than ever with over 13 million Americans affected last year. Overall, identity thieves have stolen $112 billion in the past six years that’s nearly $35,600 per minute, or enough to fund a four-year college degree in less than five minutes.
How can you protect yourself from credit card fraud and identity theft? Try these tips:
1. Enact a credit freeze. A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, stops unauthorized individuals from getting access to your credit report. Creditors check your credit report before opening new financial or service accounts in your name, if you block access to it, identity thieves won’t be able to open credit cards in your name. When you are ready to apply for new credit, you can reverse the credit freeze.
2. Keep mobile devices secure. Tablets and smartphones are extremely convenient and efficient for managing your finances. However, unless you secure them properly, you can leave yourself vulnerable to credit card fraud and identity theft. Make implementing all available software updates for your devices a priority and use the security features offered by Android and iOS platforms, including biometric (fingerprint or voice recognition) passwords and data encryption. In addition, look for settings that allow you to remotely wipe clean the contents of your device if it is lost or stolen.
3. Set strong passwords. Your password is the first line of defense against credit card and identity theft. Changing your passwords on a regular basis is also an important step. If you can’t remember your passwords, try using an electronic password manager such as LastPass to keep them straight and secure.
4. Activate account alerts. Most financial institutions, credit card issuers and brokerages, offer free text message and email notifications to provide you with real-time alerts of suspicious activity. Make sure you keep tabs on these notifications and if you do receive something that indicates fraudulent activity, contact the account issuer immediately.
5. Don’t disregard data breach notifications. According to AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) research, 20 percent of data-breach victims suffered fraud in 2015, up from 1 in 7 in 2014. Retail breaches remain a major source of these breaches, but the largest increase in breaches was in government agencies and health care organizations, both potentially risk the exposure of your Social Security number and potentially financial information as well.
Even the most stringent security measures cannot provide absolute protection from credit card and identity theft. That’s why it’s so important for you to take proactive steps to safeguard your own financial accounts and stay vigilant when monitoring for any suspicious activity. If you have any questions about credit card fraud, identity theft or protecting your financial information please contact us.