Protecting your finances Feb 07, 2013, 9:20 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

The simple truth is that most physically dangerous situations can be avoided by paying attention to what is going on around you—situational awareness. Always keep your eyes open and pay attention to what is going on. You have probably heard these tips before, but do you consistently follow them?

Protect your bank account information:

o Be careful when using your debit / credit cards that observers do not see your pin and card number. The guy behind you might look harmless, but, like your mom says, “It’s better safe than sorry.”

o Cards are easily counterfeited. Watch out for people around ATMs and for suspicious equipment or devices at ATMs. Thieves may be trying to observe you or electronically capture your transaction (pin, card number, etc.).

o Don’t leave your ATM receipts behind – they can be useful to thieves observing your ATM activity.

o Monitor your bank accounts for fraudulent activity and report any lost or stolen checks or cards immediately. Phishing is growing.

Always be careful with your own private information:

o Your very personal U.S. mail is a big security risk. Be sure to pick up your mail promptly.

o Unsolicited credit card applications, private medical records and financial records can be stolen from your mailbox and used against you. Remember to shred junk mail offering you a credit card just as you would shred bank statements.

o Don’t throw out anything with private information on it; it needs to be shredded.

o Don’t mail checks from your outside mailbox. They can be easily stolen and altered or counterfeited. Instead, mail your bills from a more secure location, like from work or directly from the post office.

o Monitor your own credit reports to watch for any fraudulent activity using your name. The U.S. Congress requires the three major credit bureaus to give you one free report on yourself once per year. You can request a report from one credit bureau now and then in four months from a second bureau. Then in eight months, request a report from the third credit bureau. That way you get a fresh report every four months.

o Bank of American Fork offers a service for businesses called “positive pay.” This computerized system receives data directly from the business as checks are issued. It then confirms that each check that clears the Bank exactly matches the list of checks that were issued. This stops counterfeit and altered checks cold.

You can read more security tips here.

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