Identity theft. Two words that all of us are becoming increasingly aware of with each passing day.
The Internet offers immediate access to information and consumer services, which is convenient for our hectic day-to-day environment. However, the Internet can also give someone the opportunity to illegally access your personal information and damage your finances and reputation.
Recent data breaches resulting in the theft of check card information at high profile companies have drawn a great deal of publicity and created some trepidation with consumers.
Learning of a data breach can be a startling experience, but it does not mean that you will become a victim of fraud or identity theft. With a few precautions, you can be confident using your check card in person, online or by phone.
Check card security tips
• Keep your check card in a safe place and give it the same consideration you would to cash or checks.
• If you receive a replacement check card, be sure to destroy your old card.
• Sign the back of credit and check cards with permanent ink.
• Unless you placed the call, never give out your card number over the phone.
• Do not include your card number in an email.
• Use only secure websites, indicated by a lock symbol in the lower right-hand corner of your web browser, whenshopping online. Also, sites that have a URL that begins with the letters “https” offer secure communications.
• Utilize Verified by Visa or MasterCard Securecode for an additional layer of security when shopping online.
• Always log off from a website after making a check card purchase.
• Keep transaction receipts in a safe place or destroy them.
• Select a unique PIN that is not connected to your everyday activities or life, such as birthdays or anniversaries.
• Memorize your PIN and never share it with anyone.
• Change your PIN regularly, preferably every six months.
• Do not write your PIN on your check card.
• Verify transactions on your account statement and inform your bank immediately if you find discrepancies.
• If you are traveling, either domestically or internationally, it is important for you to notify your financial institution. You may be restricted from using your card if your financial institution is unaware of your travel.
What to do if you are a victim
If you suspect your personal information has been used to commit fraud or theft, act immediately.
• Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus and request that a “fraud alert” be placed on your file. Also, request a copy of your credit report. Follow up in writing and include copies of your documentation, such as the police report or your credit card statement with the items in question notated.
— Equifax: (800) 685-1111.
— Experian: (888) 397-3742.
— Trans Union: (800) 916-8800.
• If you believe your accounts have been tampered with or fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name, close those accounts immediately. If the fraud involves a credit card, notify the company or other provider within 60 days from when you received the first bill containing the fraudulent charges.
• File a report with your local police department or the police in the community where the identity theft took place and ask for a copy of the report. Credit card companies may need proof of the crime to erase the debts caused by identity theft.
There are several online resources where you can obtain information regarding personal information security and identity theft tips. A few of them include:
• Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, fdic.gov.
• Federal Trade Commission, ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft.
• Department of Homeland Security, US-Cert.gov.
While there are no completely secure guarantees, the above precautions can help safeguard your personal information and minimize your risk. Remember, when you follow your bank’s guidance regarding card and PIN protection notification in conjunction with MasterCard and Visa guidelines, you are not held responsible for unauthorized charges. So, be sure to enjoy all of the benefits technology offers with confidence.
For more information about preventing fraud or other MidFirst Bank services, stop by or call us at (480) 755-0937.
• Liane Rouzaud is a chamber board member and banking center manager at the Ahwatukee Foothills MidFirst Bank at 48th Street and Chandler Boulevard.