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8 Tips to Prevent Fraud from Devastating Your Life

Fraud is becoming more prevalent each year. According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 10 people over the age of 16 is the victim of identity theft. With so many new scams continuously emerging, it’s important to stay up to date on how to prevent fraud. Here are eight tips you can use to help protect yourself:

1 - Think Twice Before Using Public Wi-Fi

Most people have gone to their local coffee shop and opened their laptop or phone to check something while waiting to meet a friend or taking a relaxing break. The problem is that so many public Wi-Fi connections are just that – public, and cybercriminals may be rerouting the signal.

These criminals are hoping you’ll forget you’re on Wi-Fi and visit a website where you need to enter your personal information. Once you log in, they have a number of methods to steal your credentials and access your personal information. To be safe, make sure your phone has the ‘automatically connect to Wi-Fi’ setting turned off.

2 - Keep Your Cards Safe

When using a credit or debit card, make sure to follow these simple steps to keep your card safe:

  • Always sign the back of your credit or debit card. Diligent retailers will check your signature on the receipt and compare it to your card.
  • Don’t jot down your PIN on the card in case it gets stolen, and don’t have it written down anywhere in your wallet.
  • Frequently check your transactions online to spot any errors or fraudulent activity. The timing of reporting a suspected fraudulent transaction is critical to be fully protected under Mastercard’s® Zero Liability
  • Set up account alerts. Orange County’s Credit Union offers account alerts that analyze your purchasing habits in order to detect fraud, and will alert you if a transaction seems suspicious.
  • Use caution when purchasing anything online unless you know the website is secure and has an address that starts with ‘https.’ Opt for using a credit card when purchasing online to avoid thieves getting access to your bank account. There are also other benefits to using credit cards online.
  • Never lend your credit cards to anyone.
  • Use digital wallets as a safe payment alternative.
  • Call the card issuer if you suspect fraud or if the card is missing or stolen.
  • If you mainly use one credit card and one debit card, consider leaving infrequently-used cards in a safe place instead of in your wallet.

Make sure to audit your debit and credit card charges weekly. The faster you catch fraudulent activity, the sooner it can be stopped. When you check your debit and credit card activity weekly, it’s easy to notice something that may be amiss.

3 - Look for Signs of ID Theft on Your Credit Report

Annual credit reports are free once a year from each of the major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. By looking at your report, you can easily spot fraud or ID theft. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends going to annualcreditreport.com to get your free credit report. Once you have the report, you can look for any fraud or inconsistencies and see if your open accounts match what is listed on the report. If you do find fraudulent activity, make sure to put a 90-day fraud alert on your credit, contact your creditors, file a police report, and report identity theft to the FTC.

4 - Be Sure to Properly Destroy Old Credit and Debit Cards, Checks, and Statements

When you get a new or replacement credit or debit card, it’s important to properly destroy the old one. Not only should you cut through the small square chip, but you should also cut the entire card multiple times horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. The key is to cut through all of your information - even your signature. When finished, it’s a good idea to throw little pieces away in separate trash cans at separate times. That way, it would be almost impossible to piece it together to read the numbers.

Online and Mobile Banking are great ways to save time and streamline making payments, as well as eliminate the need for physical checks. If your printed checks get thrown out or into the wrong hands, your personal bank account information could be jeopardized. Once you’re done with a check, destroy it using a shredder. The same is true with account statements. If you get a paper statement in the mail, there’s a chance it could get mis-delivered, lost, or stolen, so consider having your statements delivered to you through Online Banking.

5 - Know How to Recognize Phony Websites

Phony websites are often set up to steal your credit card information. In some cases, shrewd online thieves are able to set up a website that looks so real you often can’t tell the difference. To make sure the site you’re visiting is legitimate, look at the address and see if it starts with ‘https.’ If it does, it’s secure. You can also click on the padlock icon next to the address to make sure you have an encrypted connection.

There are other clues to look for when assessing if a website is real or not. If you see poor grammar, misspelled words, an overabundance of ads, or can’t find a way to contact the company, you’re likely on a website created just to steal your information.

6 - Be Wary of Emails

Never open emails from someone you don’t recognize and never click on attachments or links from unfamiliar senders. When you click on these links, they can install malware or spyware onto the computer and the criminals can see every move you make – and collect your passwords and banking information. If you’re ever unsure about an email that you receive from a company, you can always go directly to their website to see if what they’re advertising is legitimate as opposed to clicking on a link from an email.

7 - Be Cautious of Employment Opportunities That Seem Too Good to Be True

Some common employment scams include mystery shopper scams or car wrap scams. With employment scams like these, a check is usually provided for a much larger amount than advertised when receiving payment for the job. The fraudster then convinces the victim to purchase gift cards or send money via apps to return the access payment. Later, when the victim tries to cash the check, it turns out to be fraudulent and the victim is left responsible for the amount.

This could also happen with selling items on Craigslist, or meeting someone through social media who says they have a job opportunity for you. Always be suspicious when someone says you can get money quickly or with minimal effort, but then requests a portion of the payment first. Keep in mind, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

8 – Protect Your Banking Account Information

An easy way to prevent fraud is to keep your account information private. This might even apply to your relationships. Be careful if a new relationship initiated online seems to be moving too fast. A warning sign could be if the other person continually makes excuses not to meet in person, but then begins asking for money citing various reasons. This sort of behavior could indicate a romance scam. Always be cautious by not sharing online banking credentials or personal account information.

Learn more ways to protect yourself so you won’t be a victim. At Orange County’s Credit Union, we take protecting your personal information seriously, and we know that when we all work together, we can stop fraud in its tracks.