Any credit use without knowledge or permission is credit fraud and can lead to severe financial damage as well as other serious issues (and stress). Credit fraud is a major problem both in the US and around the world. The Javelin Strategy & Research company’s “2009 Identity Fraud Survey Report” found that there were 11.1 million victims of credit fraud in the United States alone. This criminal act is most likely so rampant, because it is close to impossible to safeguard yourself 100 percent of the time. You can, however, significantly decrease your odds of being a victim by learning to use your credit cards safely.
TEACHING YOUR KIDS
Most kids today get a credit card, either from a parent or on their own, around the age of 15-16 years old; but few are taught about the seriousness of credit fraud. This is a problem for many reasons, but especially because young people often suffer the most from credit fraud! It can take years for credit issues to be resolved, and in the meantime young people could lose access to school grants or loans, be unable to get a loan for a car or rent an apartment, and even be passed over for jobs because of their seemingly low credit. Teach your children the tips below so they can actively prevent this type of crime from happening to them.
PREVENTING CREDIT FRAUD
The most important thing you can do to safe guard yourself against any type of fraud, is to be vigilant about who sees your personal information. This is why protecting yourself from credit fraud is so difficult, because you are often expected to hand over your credit card to someone you don’t know. Try to keep control of your card as much as possible, and if you must give it to someone than watch closely how it is used. For obvious reasons this can be difficult, but is by far the best method of preventing your card details from being stolen.
Other ways to protect your credit card information include making sure no one is observing your card details too closely, using more than one device to run your card or using a device that doesn’t look familiar. Some criminals use skimmers, which are small devices that steal information from your card’s the magnetic.
CREDIT CARDS ONLINE
When shopping online, only buy from reputable websites and check that the website uses some type of SSL security. You can usually see that a website is secure by looking at the page’s URL, which will start with “https://” if it has SSL security, instead of the regular and unsecured “http://”. If you keep any financial or personal information on your computer, make sure you have updated anti-virus and anti-malware software.
PROTECTING YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION
Obtaining credit card details are not the only way a criminal can benefit from your credit. By obtaining your personal information, such as address, employment, social security number or birthdate, a person can open new accounts and credit cards in your name. Never give any personal or credit card information to someone contacting you by email or phone, even if it seems they are from your bank or another reputable organization. If you feel they really need to speak with you, look up the business’s phone number and call the main line. You can then request the individual who contacted you and be confident they are who they say.
USING THE CREDIT BUREAUS TO PREVENT FRAUD
For those who wish to be extra vigilant, you can request a credit freeze that will prevent any access to your credit report or any new account openings without a password. To request a credit freeze, there is a charge of $10 and you must make the requests individually with each of the three credit bureaus. The US Federal Trade Commission also advises requesting free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com (which provides reports from all three credit bureaus) and examining them for unknown aliases, addresses and accounts.
If you and your family follow these tips you will be much less likely to become a victim. Remember that the effects of credit fraud can be serious and long-lasting, because thieves often try multiple times to open new accounts in your name. Therefore, the smartest individuals are those that are serious about prevention.