Protect Your Credit
The First Step is Prevention
1. Look for the padlock symbol
Don't check out at a website unless you see a padlock symbol on the browser bar of whatever device you're using. This symbol means that the page has extra security to prevent others from viewing your sensitive information. Another way to tell a website is secure is that it starts with "https" instead of just "http." The "s" means the site is secure.
2. Be cautious around public Wi-Fi
If you need to check your online banking account while you're away from home, avoid public Wi-Fi networks. Many retailers provide free Wi-Fi as a convenience to customers, but you can't be sure who's able to see the data you send on the network — including private information. Instead, consider using a virtual private network, or VPN, a service that lets you encrypt the information you send over the internet. That way, others won't be able to access your data even if they can access the network. You can also send data over your personal cellular provider's network, which bypasses Wi-Fi.
3. Use a credit card instead of a debit card
Credit cards offer better consumer protections than debit cards do. If someone steals your credit card information and uses it to make unauthorized purchases, you'll be liable for $50 at most, depending on how quickly you report the loss. If your debit card information is stolen, you could lose all the money linked to your checking account. If you're unhappy with an item you bought on a credit card — say it was damaged when you received it or it was never delivered — you don't have to pay until the dispute is resolved. But if you're unhappy with a debit card purchase, you'll need to file a dispute with the retailer and possibly your bank to try to recover the money after the fact. That's because debit card purchases automatically withdraw funds from your bank account.
4. Change passwords regularly
Even if you take steps to shop securely, a hacker could steal your user name, password or other sensitive information from a retailer's database. Protect yourself by changing the passwords of your online accounts every three months or so. That way, if hackers do breach a retailer's software, there's a good chance they'll have access only to an old password.
5. Update anti-virus software
If you shop from a home computer, keep your security software updated. Anti-virus software companies frequently release security updates to address newly discovered security loopholes. Follow these tips and you can take advantage of the convenience of online shopping while also protecting yourself from online fraud.
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Take control of your credit! Credit monitoring services keep an eye on your credit profile, including your credit report and score, and can alert you to changes or potential fraud. Think of credit monitoring as an early warning system that could prevent further damage. Below are examples of free credit monitoring tools to help you keep an eye on your credit reports.
Review your credit report regularly to prevent fraud and maintain a high credit score. You can order a free copy of your credit report by:
- Calling 877-322-8228
- Going online to AnnualCreditReport.com or
- Mailing a standardized form to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P O Box 05281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Below you will find contact info for the 3 major Credit Bureaus in the event you need to dispute information listed on your credit report:
Help for Victims of Identity Theft
If you need advice after your identity has been stolen, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) provides a toolkit with a list of steps on how to proceed. Click here to view this document.
Check out these sources for the latest on preventing Fraud & Identity Theft: