The beginning of the year is a great time to evaluate and take inventory. Why not use it as a time to check up on your financial and credit accounts? It’s good practice, and it’s easy to remember as well if you always do this around the same time every year.
Steps you can take to prevent fraud
According to the Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), over 80% of the breaches in their “Hacking” category “involve brute force or the use of lost or stolen credentials.” As someone who has worked for banks, including writing rules to detect online banking fraud, I have some ideas to help you through the process.
Let’s go over a checklist of ideas to help your money stay safe for the year ahead:
1. Order new credit cards.
I admit this one is a giant pain, and I really don’t want to do it. I memorize all my credit cards and having to remember a new one is extra work I don’t want to endure, not to mention changing everything on billpay! However, if you are willing to do the extra work, this is why: when your credit card data is stolen, it usually won’t immediately be used. Credit cards are usually sold in batches because they are more profitable that way and it can take a while to go from the thief to online.
If you change your credit cards yearly, it’s very likely there will rarely be enough time for your credit card to end up in a batch being sold online. When your physical credit card is stolen, of course you should report it to your bank right away and get a new one.
2.) Pull your credit report.
You can pull your credit report once per 12 months for free from the 3 major credit card bureaus. There are also several websites and applications that will do this, but I use Credit Karma to do soft pulls, which won’t hurt my credit score. They also have tips on how to improve your credit, and you can dispute dings on your credit through them as well.
Once you need to use your credit again, you can unfreeze your credit. Your children are also susceptible to identity theft as well, so you should freeze access to their credit also. You don’t have to do it every year if you already did this and haven’t undone it, but you may want to check on it.
4.) Set up credit monitoring and alerts.
Many of us have been awarded with free credit report monitoring from one of the many breaches in the past year or two–a lot of financial institutions offer free credit monitoring tools and services as well–so look into that to see if that is an option for you. Additionally, you can set up an alert so that before a creditor can access your credit, you must be contacted and you must approve it. This can be done by calling any 3 of the major credit bureaus, who are then required to notify the other two.
5.) Change your passwords.
Create new passwords for your bank accounts and any financial data aggregators or apps. Use a password manager so you can make complex passwords, and turn on multi-factor authentication if that is an option. If you use any apps that aggregate financial data, you’ll need to make sure you have a strong password. The traffic going to and from these apps is often whitelisted from setting off alerts because it all comes from the same IP addresses and creates a lot of noise.
While your bank may pick up on fraudulent activity based on a difference in spending patterns and geography, you’ll want to make sure no one can get access to an app that holds all of your financial data.
6.) Cancel subscriptions and recurring charges.
Okay, this one isn’t so much about fraud, but it’s a good additional step to take. Oftentimes, we don’t notice recurring charges for services we no longer use. Taking a moment once a year to check will help prevent losing too much money to forgetting to cancel a service.
Throughout the year, remember to continue to check your bank accounts and your credit score (my bank has my credit score in their app), and always call your bank if you have any suspicious activity they may not have picked up.
Happy New Year, and may it be a prosperous one!