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Top six ways to avoid being a victim of fraud

8/1/2014, 6 a.m.
More than 25 million Americans are affected each year by fraud or identity theft and the first line of defense ...
More than 25 million Americans are affected each year by fraud or identity theft and the first line of defense against becoming a victim is you.

— More than 25 million Americans are affected each year by fraud or identity theft and the first line of defense against becoming a victim is you. Being an educated consumer is critical to ensuring your financial security and protecting your assets. The more you know, the safer you will be.

Credit card fraud happens when someone gains unwanted access to your financial accounts and/or uses your credit card information to make unauthorized purchases. Less frequently but more damaging, identity theft occurs when someone obtains your personalized information and uses it to take out loans or open accounts in your name.

“Without a doubt, the strongest deterrent to identity theft is the individual consumer,” says Bernard McLaughlin, President and CEO of Point Breeze Credit Union. “We want consumers to know how much power they actually hold to stop identity theft. For example, periodically checking your account transactions online between statements and quickly reporting something that’s not right, can ensure that you get full reimbursement from your financial institution for fraudulent charges and can immediately interrupt the possibility of any further damage.”

Here are six ways to help you be proactive in protecting yourself and avoiding fraud:

Be alert— Stay active in monitoring your accounts and regularly assess your banking risks. Who has access to your account? Are your pin numbers and passwords secure? How regularly are you checking your accounts? If weaknesses are found, put into place higher security controls.

Read your statements carefully— Closely review all your credit card and bank statements for unauthorized or unusual activity. Shred sensitive documents, such as account statements, before disposing of them. Better yet, sign up for eStatements, a safer alternative to paper statements.

Regularly monitor your accounts— Monitor all of your accounts frequently, specifically in between statements, and address any concerns or questionable charges immediately. Online Banking is a great way to keep tabs on your account activity between statements.

Safeguard sensitive information— Do not send your personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, or passwords via email or text. If using mobile banking apps, log out after each use and consider using password protection to lock your phone from unwanted access.

Take advantage of fraud protection— Financial institutions and credit card companies offer special monitoring programs to alert customers of potential fraud. Talk to a customer service representative about what benefits they offer to help you protect yourself from fraud, and always ensure they have your most up-to-date contact information, so a customer service representative can reach you if suspicious activity is suspected.

Protect yourself online— To safeguard yourself online, create strong passwords, install anti-virus software on your desktop and mobile devices, avoid opening emails or downloading files from unknown senders, and log out of your online banking account at the end of each session.

Point Breeze Credit Union offers superior customer service to help you manage your finances safely, including fraud protection support. For more information visit, http://www.pbcu.com or call 888-233-7228.