Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Protecting yourself against Fraud this Holiday Season

Interesting article that was sent to me by our Equifax Partners.

In an effort to find the perfect holiday gifts, you are likely hitting the shops and the Web to source your favorite things. While it is extremely convenient to use debit cards, credit cards and websites to make purchases, it is important to safeguard your personal information.

Tara Zecevic, vice-president, Technology Solutions encourages you to get educated and offers this advice, "Be familiar with the various types of online and offline scams out there. Fraudsters prey on people's vulnerabilities and lack of understanding. Be diligent." To help you prevent fraud, she recommends the following:

  • Create strong passwords
  • Use different passwords for accounts containing your personal, banking and credit card information
  • Delete spam
  • Check your statements and credit report regularly
  • Follow up on unrecognized transactions and undelivered bills or statements, since this could be a sign of identity theft

In the case of payment for gift purchases, Zecevic recommends the use of credit or debit cards. She says, "Choosing to use credit or debit cards is preferred since banks and credit card companies are automatically set up to monitor purchase activity and will alert you to unusual transactions. No matter the card you decide to use, always remember to take the following precautions:

  • Memorize your PIN and never give it out!
  • Always cover your PIN and card at automated bank machines and in stores
  • Be prudent -- use an ATM from a trusted source
  • Watch for cameras, cell phones, mirrors and other devices that can be used to view and/or record your information
  • Never turn a blind eye to people who may be watching
  • Don't let cashiers and servers take your card out of sight -- take it for payment processing yourself
  • Avoid providing personal information such as address, postal code, phone, date of birth unless absolutely necessary

When shopping online, ensure your computer is secure with updated protection and avoid making your purchases on public computers at internet cafes and libraries. Once you're confident that your computer is safe, be aware of the following scams to protect yourself against online fraud:

  • Don't trust emails and website links to offers that "look too good to be true"
  • Limit the information you post on social networking sites and only accept 'friend' requests from people you trust. Clicking on bogus email 'friend' requests can download malicious software designed to steal your personal or financial information
  • Do not respond to or click on links or attachments from unsolicited emails to guard against malicious and password stealing software
    • Don't fall victim to phishing emails from reputable credit card companies or financial institutions requesting that you confirm account or login information -- these are scams! If you receive this type of email, notify the company immediately.
    • Ignore charity emails and make a donation via their official website.
    • Be wary of employment scams requesting start-up fees or information of a personal or financial nature
    • Ignore phony delivery emails requesting charges to release package
  • Always be careful when opening holiday e-cards -- make sure you recognize and trust the sender and website

To help protect yourself against fraud this holiday season, staying informed and putting into practice what you know is the first line of defense.

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