Tips to safeguard against financial fraud Sep 23, 2013, 2:15 pm By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Autumn is a great time of year. Leaves are changing, the air is crisp and pumpkin bread can be smelled baking in many kitchens. People are gearing up for the winter holidays—including thieves. Thieves are always looking for opportunities to steal from you, whether it is your physical belongings or personal information. With the latter, you may not even know when you have been a victim until it’s too late, so follow these tips to safeguard your private information and avoid financial fraud.

Protect your bank account information.

• Be careful when using your debit / credit cards that observers do not “shoulder surf” and see your pin and card number.

• Cards are easily counterfeited. Watch out for people lurking 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.).

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

• Monitor your bank accounts for fraudulent activity and report any lost or stolen checks or cards immediately.

  Be careful with your own private information.

• Your personal U.S. mailbox is a big security risk. Be sure to pick up your mail promptly. Unsolicited credit card applications, private medical records and financial records can be stolen from your mailbox and used against you.

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

• 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.

• 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.

Have you heard any other great tips for combating fraud?

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