HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FRAUD:
Tips for a Grinch-free holiday season
During the holiday season it’s not only the Grinch who works overtime to spoil your jolly good time. Scammers and thieves are also hard at work to separate you from your hard-earned money.
In the last few years, consumer fraud has become much more sophisticated through online schemes, hacked credit card information, and more. Fraud and identity-theft complaints tracked by the Federal Trade Commission topped 1.2 million in 2011, up 19 percent over 2010 and 800 percent since 2000. The good news is that security and prevention of these problems has also gotten stronger as well, but still there is no shortage of people looking to take advantage of holiday shoppers and even folks wanting to give to charity.
Don’t get “grinched” this holiday season. Take a few simple precautions for a safe and very merry season.
RESEARCH BEFORE YOU GIVE: With the bulk of charitable giving being done at the end of the year, fraudsters are targeting potential donors. Nothing stings more than being taken advantage of while trying to help somebody. Do your research (http://www.charitynavigator.org/) and make sure that the cause you are giving to exists and that the organization soliciting the donation is a properly registered nonprofit organization. Without proper tax status nonprofits are not able to issue tax receipts and you may lose your write-off as well. Make sure that you give to a proper agent of the organization and receive a receipt. Also, when donating online make sure you give on a secure Web site. Most legitimate nonprofit organizations are using partners such as greatergiving.com for secure giving.
SWIPE AND SIGN: Did you know that it is safer to sign for your purchases than use your PIN? Your signature is unique and if there is a need to verify, it is much easier to compare your signature than to find out who punched the four little digits into the machine.
IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Any sweepstakes announcements that announce in capital letters “you won” are probably an attempt to get more information from you. Forms that ask for excessive amounts of information to be eligible for a special deal or promotion are also very likely a scam. Don’t hand out your personal information without scrutinizing the source and recipient .
NO ONLINE SHOPPING ON PUBLIC WI-FI NETWORKS: If you use your laptop or other devices, don’t do your shopping in the coffee shop down the street or at another shared network in a public space. An easy way to cut down on the potential for fraud is to do your online shopping at home—or at a trusted WiFi network. There is a greater potential for leaking personal information, especially passwords, when you use your smartphone, laptop, or other device to purchase items on free, public WiFi networks. Never shop or bank on public computers and log out after every use to avoid giving the next person a look at your information.
MAKE SURE ONLINE RETAILERS’ SITE IS LEGIT: It is easy to get excited about a great deal, especially when shopping for a unique items or a special holiday present. But make sure that the Web site you are purchasing from is the official Web site of the retailer. For small businesses, think twice if you have trouble verifying the retailer. Never follow a link from an unknown source or email – especially when you sign up for email alerts about special holiday sales. If a retailer is offering a deal, go directly to their official Website to access the deal.
SAFEGUARD YOUR INFORMATION: Your credit card information, account numbers and social security number should never be shared with anybody. But we do realize it may be necessary in rare cases. If you do make sure that:
- You do it in person
- Ask why they need it
- Ask how it will be used
- Ask how they will protect it
- Ask what happens if you don’t share the number
SHRED EVERYTHING: Even if you are diligent about not sharing information, thieves and scammers can make use of many innocent looking bits and pieces. Therefore, if you toss out your mail or other information make sure no personal information can be taken from it. The best course of action is to shred it. If you receive a new credit or debit card in the mail, shred the old one. The same holds true for discarded checkbooks. Now that many retailers have gone to more modern systems to read checks, make sure that you shred even voided checks that have been handed back to you after the retailer accessed your account.
MONITOR: Take full advantage of your First Liberty Bank online or mobile banking and monitor your account activity. Make sure you check your bank statements and credit card statements for any irregularities or discrepancies and report them immediately. If somebody has gained access to your financials, the faster you can stop them the better.
CALL US: If you have any concerns about unusual activity on any of your accounts, please contact us right away. At First Liberty Bank it is our priority to keep you and your finances safe during the holidays and all year long. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.