This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Chase. All opinions are 100% mine.
It happens every day in America and around the globe: Identity theft, or consumer fraud. I consider myself to be borderline paranoid when it comes to my personal information, primarily because I have been a victim of identity theft in the past.
My story is all-too-common. I usually inspect my credit card bills carefully, and one year around Christmas I began seeing charges show up on my credit card bill that I did not recognize at all. When I called my credit card company up to ask for more information about the charges, it became clear that those were not charges I had authorized.
Thankfully, I caught this right away and my credit card company immediately reversed the charges and closed that account. However, what if I had not caught this? The charges were small enough (around $20-$30) that they sort of blended in with other charges to the card, and like I said this was around Christmas so I had been doing some shopping for gifts. In retrospect, I wonder if they had somehow gotten my information as I shopped online – but I don’t know for sure.
Thieves become sneakier every day, and it’s up to us as consumers to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves. But how do you know all the right steps to take? And how can you be sure that your bank or credit card company is doing all that they can to help protect you and your information? Consumers tend to “block-out” fraud protection advice, leaving them vulnerable to fraud. Even consumers who are aware of the risk aren’t taking all of the necessary steps to help protect themselves.
I personally check out credit cards really carefully before I sign up for them. As an amateur travel expert and credit card rewards aficionado, I have several credit cards with different companies (the balances get paid off every month, of course!) Among the mix, I actually have three different Chase credit cards: Chase Amazon.com Rewards, Chase Marriott Rewards and the Chase Freedom card. Chase is one of my favorite credit card companies, both because I like the retailers they align themselves with, but also because I really like their fraud features and tips protection. They also do a great job of both educating and protecting consumers.
- Zero-Liability Protection – You won’t be held responsible for fraudulent charges made with your card or account information.
- 24/7 Fraud Monitoring – We use specialized tools to monitor for fraud and may text, email or call you if there is anything unusual on your account.
- Embedded Chip Technology – A chip adds another layer of security to cards when used at a chip card reader. During the chip transaction, the chip produces a single-use code to validate the transaction – further protecting cards from unauthorized use.
- Fast Recovery – Chase ships you a new credit card immediately if fraud is confirmed or if your card is lost or stolen. If you’re traveling and away from home, Chase will work with you to authorize the credit card purchases you need.
Chase offers 24/7 fraud monitoring and zero liability protection. That means that, if I, for example, make a large purchase on one of my Chase cards, I get a text notifying me of the fact and asking me to contact Chase immediately if I did not authorize the purchase. I love that. So far it’s always been my own purchases, and I hope I never need to frantically contact them to say I didn’t authorize the purchase. But I love the fact that I will be notified right away if and when it happens.
Education is the best prevention here! There is a wealth of information online if you know where to look. USA Today and Chase partnered to create the “What’s My Fraud IQ?” Quiz , which I recently took. I honestly thought I was doing pretty well in the realm of consumer fraud prevention, given my history and paranoia about it. But there were actually a couple items on the quiz that highlighted areas in which I could and should be doing better. The first is with keeping my address updated with my bank and credit cards. I’ve been moving every 3-4 years, and I’m honestly not sure if all of my credit cards and bank have my updated address (especially since the last move was just a couple months ago!) I definitely need to do that, since I would want my bank to be able to contact me in case there were fraud concerns with my account.
Another thing that the quiz pointed out to me was the fact that, while I check my statements “most of the time,” it really needs to be ALL of the time. Now that I get all of my statements online, I have to admit that it has become a little more difficult to do that, simply because it involves tracking down my username and password, which I am pretty good at remembering for most of my accounts- but not always. I’ve definitely got some things to work on here.
9 Key Steps to Protect Yourself From Consumer Fraud
1. Get alerts
Sign up for the alerts (like I mentioned above) so that your bank will notify you if suspicious purchases are made or attempted on your card. You will need to make sure that you keep your contact information updated with your bank (especially if you move a lot like me!) so that they may contact you if needed.
2. Access statements online
Sign up for online statements instead of mailed ones. Thieves who gain access to your mail could access your account info through your mail. Online is more secure as long as you keep your passwords safe. As a great side benefit, online statements are also better for the environment! I don’t know about you, but I used to accumulate a TON more paperwork when I was still receiving bills in the mail. It feels good to be killing fewer trees. 🙂
3. Watch where you shop
Shop only at respected online retailers, and check out the URL! URLs that begin with HTTPS, as opposed to HTTP, are much more secure. This one is a biggie, and is also one that I think far too few people are aware of (I have to admit, I don’t think I knew this until I became a blogger). The S stands for Secure, so you want to make sure that any website you provide your credit card or banking info to has this.
4. Guard your information
Don’t give out your credit or debit card info via email or phone, and don’t respond to unsolicited emails (the ambassador of Nigeria is not really trying to get ahold of you, I promise!)
5. Don’t swipe if you don’t have to!
Use your chip-enabled card if at all possible. Swiping is not as secure, as millions of Target shoppers discovered a few weeks before Christmas in 2013 (remember that? It was in the aftermath of that and other similar events that the switch to chip-embedded cards started for many financial institutions in the US).
6. Beef up your passwords!
Use a combo of letters, numbers, and symbols. I know passwords are the bane of everyone’s existence some days. But unfortunately strong passwords are necessary because thieves are clever.
7. Bank online
Try to do your banking online when possible, and thus eliminate the need to mail checks. I try to do this anyway, since it saves me money on buying the checks themselves! But it is also a way to help protect against consumer fraud.
8. Don’t use public Wi-Fi
Be very careful when making purchases on public Wi-Fi, which is often not protected with encryption. I personally just try not to use public Wi-Fi because of this, and when I do, I don’t shop at all.
9. Lock it up
Use the lock feature on your smartphone! That way if your phone is lost or stolen no one will be able to access your info. Using a PIN or passcode helps protect you.
Do you know your Fraud IQ? Take the “What’s My Fraud IQ?” Quiz to find out!!
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