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6 ways to stay protected from identity fraud

by Joshua D. Scroggin
September 20, 2018
Green umbrella shading you from the sun
Use these six tips to help keep your money and identity secure from thieves.

Whether you’re saving up or you're on a spending spree — you have plans for your money. The last thing you need is for a fraudster to swoop in and knock you off track. These days it seems like identity and financial fraud attacks are coming at you from all sides, but there are plenty of ways you can protect yourself.

Here are six ways to help keep your funds secure.

Protect your PIN

One of the most common ways fraudsters can attack you is at the ATM or the gas station — anywhere you’re asked to type your PIN in public. You may instinctively cover the keypad when someone is waiting to use the ATM behind you. But did you know that you should always practice the same method when you’re the only one around? No, you’re not paranoid. Recent incidents have uncovered scammers using hidden cameras to grab your PIN as you type. Don’t be ashamed that you might look foolish. Definitely cover the pad with your hand and shade your PIN as you type. You surely won’t feel awkward when other users go through the inconvenience of getting a new debit card or fraud reimbursement while the undetectable hidden camera failed to record your account information.

Make a transaction plan

It’s so easy to see an eStatement pop into your inbox and swipe it away. Maybe you’re one of the many who file your unopened paper statements directly into the recycle bin. But making even a quick review of your transactions can go a long way in recognizing any odd activity — something you definitely want to detect right away. CoastHills Credit Union members enjoy a zero-fraud liability policy, and any fraudulently withdrawn or expended money can be refunded. Here’s the key: Acting quickly is the most important thing you can do. Card issuers only allow a limited window to dispute a charge. So check every statement to make sure you at least recognize every transaction. 

Location tracking isn’t all bad

This one has dual-purpose. Let your financial institution know when you’re planning on traveling (especially out of the country), so they know when out-of-the-ordinary transactions are legitimate or not and so that you aren’t cut off from funds by accident if transactions are blocked. Letting your credit union know you’re heading out (and for how long) can make everyone’s lives easier. Even if you’re just going to the neighboring state or from one end of the state to another. Computer algorithms are in place to detect any unusual activity, and that includes location. If someone unexpectedly makes a charge in a location you don’t normally visit, many institutions will block the charge, so it never has to become a fraud claim. Before your financial institution cuts you off at the gas pump when you’re running on fumes in unfamiliar territory, let them know your travel plans as far in advance as possible.

You have a choice — choose chips

By this point, most of the cards in your wallet (especially the recently issued ones) include an EMV chip built in. But some merchants still aren’t taking advantage of the upgrade in security. Here’s why that’s a bad thing for you: When you use the magnetic stripe rather than the chip in your card, you share sensitive information that gets stored by the merchant and remains vulnerable in the case of a data breach. Whereas, if you use your EMV chip, your tokenized transaction keeps all of your account data safely in your own hands. If you have a choice between doing business with a merchant who has adopted EMV and another who is lagging behind, it’s safer for you to shop with your own security in mind. And you might find it helpful to let your favorite merchants know that them adopting EMV is important to you.

Want more info on why EMV technology is top-notch? Check this out.

Mobile security starts with you

Your smartphone has a lot of information on it. You may not even think about that when you’re out and about, but it probably contains instant access to accounts, emails, messages and other private information. So keep that phone close when you take it outside the house. Leaving a phone — or laptop or tablet, for that matter — sitting out unattended in a public place can leave you vulnerable to theft of more than just the device itself. Obtaining critical data can take just a few moments, so be cautious, and be sure to protect your lock screens with patterns, PINs or passwords that are not easy to guess or replicate.

Don’t set your passwords up like dominos

Memorizing all your passwords can be a struggle. That’s why you more than likely reuse the same two or three over and over, right? The trouble is, if one of your accounts is breached, fraudsters will next try to target other sites using your compromised info hoping you use the same credentials for multiple accounts. If you do, there’s a potential for your security to fall like a line of dominos, giving access to sensitive information on all of those sites for thieves to steal. You’ll have to act quickly to update passwords on several accounts, versus just the one that’s been immediately breached. Try coming up with passwords with abbreviations, numbers and characters that connect to the platform in question — and that only make sense to you. Or look into a robust password manager to help you keep track of them. You can manage them with an app on your mobile device, so your passwords are always at your fingertips (another reason mobile security is important), but whatever you do, get out of the habit of using the same passwords for multiple accounts.  

Security is worth it

While not all financial security is under your control, these measure can go a long way toward ensuring you’re doing everything you can to prevent fraud. If you want more info on how your CoastHills Credit Union accounts are especially secured, talk to a team member today
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