Holidays are a busy and stressful time of year. There’s traveling and planning for visitors. Buying and wrapping presents for loved ones. Avoiding the flu. Cybercriminals know the hectic nature of holiday preparation and attempt to take advantage of anyone who may not be paying close attention, particularly older adults. It’s crucial that the elderly […]
Be a savvy consumer.
Protect yourself from fraud by safeguarding your confidential information. Use the following guidelines to help prevent the unthinkable from happening to you.
Every year, millions of Americans experience identity fraud, leading to billions of dollars in losses. Fortunately, there are steps you can take today to effectively reduce the chances of your financial and personal information being compromised.
The internet can be a wonderful thing, but also a dangerous place. Keep these tips in mind anytime you connect to the internet, whether it be from your home, work or favorite cafe:
- Don’t open emails from people you don’t recognize, and don’t open any files you weren’t expecting to receive. Check with the sender offline before accessing an emailed document.
- Don’t enter sensitive information – card numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden name, etc. – into online forms while you’re connected to public WiFi networks, or any networks you’re unfamiliar with.
- Secure your mobile phone with a strong password.
- Choose hard passwords. Don’t rely on easy-to-find information, like your street name or your child’s first name.
- Don’t make purchases from sites you don’t know. Look for the “s” in the “https://” that comes before every website’s URL (hint: it stands for “secure”). Reference the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission or online reviews to make sure a merchant you’re buying from for the first time is legitimate.
- Disable mobile banking on stolen or lost devices. Do this through the Bank Midwest online banking portal or by calling Bank Midwest at 888.902.5662.
While many criminals utilize technology to carry out their misdeeds, many use old-fashioned techniques to gain access to people’s finances.
- Shred all sensitive documents before throwing them away, including statements, bills and pre-approved credit offers.
- Collect your mail daily. If you’ll be out of town, arrange for mail holding with your post office.
- Keep sensitive documents – Social Security cards, credit cards, loan information – in a safe place.
- Make sure you receive your credit card bill in the mail on time. Better yet, sign up for online banking.
- Don’t give out payment or personal information over the phone, especially if you don’t know the caller or if you’re in public.
- File your taxes ASAP.
Your credit report informs lenders of your financial health, but it can also show you any fraudulent activities being carried out under your name.
- Get your free credit report every year from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax and dispute any errors. Learn more about contacting these three credit bureaus.
- Review every bank statement. Tell Bank Midwest right away if something isn’t right.
- Tell Bank Midwest anytime you’ll be traveling out of state or out of the country using the Debit Card Travel Notification Form.
- If you’re not planning on taking out new cards or loans in the near future, consider putting a freeze on your credit. This will make it much harder for criminals to open accounts in your name (but it’ll also make the loan origination process longer for you).
- Always know where your wallet and purse is. Never let it out of sight while in public.
- Don’t write down your PIN. Memorize, memorize, memorize.
- If you lose or misplace your debit card, use the Bank Midwest Mobile Banking App to turn it off.
- Set up alerts through Bank Midwest’s online banking portal to notify you about key account activity. Contact us about any activity you didn’t initiate.
When using social networks, it’s easy to cross the line between giving your friends and family a peek into your life and letting in people with malicious intent. Follow these tips to reduce your vulnerability while using social media:
- Use strong passwords.
- Manage your privacy settings. Specify that you only want to share personal information with people you’re connected with.
- Disable automatic logins.
- Delete or disable accounts you don’t use anymore.
- Turn off geotagging, and don’t post about going out of town or taking vacations.
- Only connect with people you know.
- Remove any sensitive information that may be used as answers to security questions, like your dog’s name, the make and model of your car or your mother’s maiden name. Even if it’s only a small caption on an image from three years ago, someone could find this.
- Periodically clear your browsing data.
- Only give your Social Security Number only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible. And, don’t carry your Social Security card with you.
- Guard your mail from theft. Use locked collection boxes and promptly remove mail from your mailbox. And, if you’ll be away from home for a period of time, contact the U.S. Postal Service to hold your mail.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills don’t arrive on time, follow up with your creditor. A missing bill could mean identity thieves have taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover their tracks.
- Keep personal information in a safe place. Be cautious about leaving personal information around, especially if you have roommates, guests, employ outside help, or have service work done.
- Shred sensitive documents before disposing of them. Charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and statements that you are discarding, expired charge cards, and credit offers you get in the mail.
Fraudsters can be very convincing in manipulating victims. If something seems unusual, don’t feel pressured to make any rash decisions without contacting someone you know and trust first.
- Pay attention to warnings from your financial institution telling you that a request sounds like a scam. Your bank may have encountered similar scams in the past.
- Scammers often claim an emergency, hoping you will respond quickly without checking out the situation first. If something seems unusual, check it out.
- Before offering your help to someone who claims to be a grandchild (or any other relative/friend), be sure to telephone your grandchild or his/her parents at a number you know to be valid to find out if the request is legitimate. If a caller claims to be from an established organization such as a hospital, a charity, or a law enforcement agency, look up the number of the organization yourself.
- Never provide your account passwords. Legitimate businesses will not ask for them.
- Consider it a red flag if the caller insists on secrecy. Never allow anyone to discourage you from seeking information, verification, support and counsel from family members, friends or trusted advisers before you make a financial transaction.
- You usually cannot win a sweepstakes or a lottery that you did not enter.
- Never “pay to play.” A legitimate sweepstakes will not ask for money upfront. Be suspicious of any pressure to send funds via wire transfer or a pre-paid reloadable card.