How to Protect Yourself From Online Fraud and Identity Theft

With the proliferation of online banking and online shopping, financial transactions have become more convenient than ever. They’ve also become more risky, because they expose your bank accounts and personal information to online fraud and theft, which can take many different forms. Luckily, most banks and financial institutions are aware of the problem, and can help you take steps to keep your financial information secure. In fact, online security is one of the services your bank offers, along with more familiar ones like mortgages and car loans.

Watching out for online fraud and identity theft
It seems that almost every month there’s news of a new security breach in online transactions, with hundreds of thousands of accounts being compromised. Hackers can use identity theft to steal your information online, and use your credit and debit cards to make purchases, even if the actual card is safe and secure in your wallet. There are many ways they can access your information. Nowadays thieves don’t need to steal your bank cards to help themselves to your money, though that can happen too.
Electronic means of identity theft include data breaches affecting thousands of customers, unsecured phones and internet connections, and schemes like phishing, where the hacker sends out emails and messages that try and trick you into giving them your personal data. Another tactic used is “skimming” or stealing information from credit and debit cards at the point of purchase, like a gas station or restaurant.

Dealing with online fraud
The scale of online fraud is staggering. Just last year, online thieves got away with $16 billion of other people’s money. As many as 15.4 million consumers were affected by various forms of online fraud like identity theft. Luckily, most banks and financial institutions have been aware of this problem for a long time and have put safeguards into place in case your accounts or cards are targeted by hackers. You can turn to your bank for help in case of identity theft, along with other services like checking accounts and car loans.
The first thing to do if you suspect that your bank account or credit card has been used for unauthorized purchases is to call the bank or card issuer to report the problem. They will immediately freeze your account and refund the stolen funds, while pursuing their inquiries into the source of the security breach. Most customers don’t realize that banks provide this valuable services along other more traditional ones like making personal and car loans. You should also call the police, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and inform the credit monitoring bureaus so your credit rating doesn’t take a hit.

How to prevent online fraud
While there are things you can do if your online finances have been compromised, prevention is better than cure, as in most matters. While no one can entirely guard against online fraud, there are some steps that can keep your financial information, credit cards and savings and checking accounts safe. Most people know to keep their passwords safe, but many can be tricked by online fraud to give up their information like social security and credit card numbers.
You should never for any reason give such confidential information to any unsolicited contacts either online or by phone. You can also take steps to secure your smartphone and home WiFi connection, using special apps. When online, never click on suspicious links either in email or on webpages. Doing so may initiate a virus download that can steal information from your computer. It also helps to keep track of your accounts, so you can see any discrepancies or unauthorized spending immediately and take action.

The world of online finances and shopping offers great potential and freedom, but these come with some very real dangers. Online fraud is a serious problem, but there are steps you can take to prevent it. If it does happen, you bank offers many security safeguards, along with other traditional services like mortgages and personal and car loans.

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