Identity theft begins with access to personal information found on mail, credit cards, identification, and other documents. Leverage online banking and sign up for electronic delivery of information to avoid receiving account statements or canceled checks in the mail. Also be aware of phishing scams where fraudsters send fake correspondence to get you to give out your bank account number.
“Sign up for direct deposit to have paychecks, dividends, tax refunds, and other deposits sent directly to your bank account,” advises Geri Thomas, SVP, Global Diversity and Inclusion Executive and Georgia Market President for Bank of America.
Avoid unfamiliar websites, use a shredder, sign up for e-mail or text alerts from your bank, and place a lock on your mailbox. Also avoid clicking on links saying they’re from your bank. Instead, go to your bank’s website and log in to your account.
“It’s important to protect your debit card because it can be more dangerous than a credit card. Under federal law, credit cards have more protection. If you don’t report a debit card stolen within two days, you can be responsible for $500 in charges. After 60 days, it is unlimited,” cautions Ridout.
To reduce your chances of becoming a victim, be on the lookout for these red flags:
- If you see misspelled words when banking online, or receive a request for your Social Security number when you already have an account. Alert the bank immediately.
- You’re at the ATM and the card swipe looks altered, the machine is not under camera surveillance, or people are lingering around. Leave quickly and report this to bank officials. If you’d like to file criminal charges, you can, but the bank will likely conduct its own investigation. “If you know the person that has stolen from you such as a roommate or relative, you can tip the cops off and file charges. Other than that, I would have the bank handle the investigation,” says Pritchard.