9 Rules to Protect Your Identity and Credit Cards

With the Target hacking and recent Heartbleed computer bug, it seems like the ideal time to offer some useful tips and reminders of how to try to protect your information as best as you can. If you follow these nine rules, you will greatly increase your personal and financial security.

1. Clear your user names and passwords

Most people love the convenience of having their usernames and passwords automatically entered when they are browsing the Internet. These can be controlled and cleared through privacy and form auto-entry settings in the various popular web browsers.

This is extremely important if you’re using a public computer or others have access to your computer. Of course, computers can easily be stolen, so even if you’re the exclusive user of your laptop, consider clearing usernames and passwords.

2. Change your passwords regularly

Most experts recommend changing passwords at least once a month. We’ve been promised biometrics for a long time. Retina scans, facial recognition, or fingerprints will replace passwords. Eventually.

In the meantime, be vigilant with your password changing schedule. If you need to keep a note in your wallet or purse to remind you of your current passwords, fine. However, don’t carry a note that has your username and passwords. Also, consider the various password managers on the market. With some, the most basic service is free. Other use various fee schemes.

3. Be careful what you post about yourself

Posting a lot of personal information on social media sites can give identity thieves the knowledge they need to answer the “challenge” questions often asked when people forget their usernames or passwords.

4. Be aware of online security scams

Anytime you are entering sensitive information, be sure the site is secure. Look for the padlock on your browser; it should be in the locked position.

Keep your eye out for phishing schemes. They are usually an email that says something is wrong with an account where you need to enter a username or password. The emails appear to be “official” and if you click the link, the page will have the right look and feel. Before following any  instructions like these, be certain that the email actually came from the proper website and the links go the real website—not some similarly named URL. When in doubt, navigate to the site in question on your own (not via the email link), find a phone number and talk to a real person.

5. Understand your credit card and debit card loss protection

Rules governing losses form fraudulent credit card and debit card use vary and it’s important to understand your bank’s policies. First, if someone makes a fraudulent transaction on your credit card, you aren’t immediately out the money. With a debit card, a fraudulent charge could wipe out your bank account, causing checks to bounce; it’s important that your bank has a policy to quickly refund your account. Also, be sure to know how many days you have to report suspected fraud and what the loss limits are for both credit card and debit card fraud. Some banks have policies that are more generous than the governing legal requirements and can virtually eliminate your liability entirely.

6. Monitor your accounts

As we mentioned above, in many cases your level of protection corresponds with how quickly you report a suspicious transaction. You should check your bank account and charge card activity at least every other day.

7. Monitor your credit report

The major credit reporting agencies are required by law to give you one free credit report each year. Take advantage of this and look for credit cards, loans or other activity that you don’t recall. A common tactic of identity thieves is to take out loans or credit cards in the victim’s name and have the bills sent to a different address. You can get additional credit reports for a fairly nominal fee.

8. Shred your documents and correspondence

While the “high-tech” online schemes get most of the attention in the media today, some identity thieves prefer the old fashioned way—going through your garbage to find papers with your account numbers and personal information. Armed with this sensitive data they can go online and do a lot of damage. Small home shredders are inexpensive and definitely worth the added layer of protection they provide.

9. Keep copies of credit cards and important information handy

If your wallet, smartphone or computer is stolen, have printouts of the customer service numbers you need to call to start the process of changing and replacing credit and debit cards.

 

 

Source: First National Bank

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