Few things are more unsettling than getting an alert for a purchase you didn’t make or realizing you unintentionally sent money to a scammer. But unfortunately, financial fraud is a common experience. Consider that Americans lost $8.8 billion to financial fraud in 2022, a 30% increase from the previous year.
The good news is that there are numerous ways to reduce your risk of becoming a victim. As you head into the new year, take advantage of the following tips to protect your finances from fraud:
1. Keep your personal information private. Don’t share your social security number, credit or debit card, or bank account details with anyone. Fraudsters attempt to capture this information and use it to steal your identity or make fraudulent charges.
2. Create strong passwords. Though this is oft-repeated advice, 64% of consumers still admit to using weak passwords or the same password for multiple accounts. Buck the trend by creating stronger passwords to prevent hackers from accessing sensitive financial information.
3. Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). Take advantage of security features using biometrics or one-time passcodes to access your financial accounts and smartphone. That way, your information is protected even if your username and password are compromised.
4. Stay up-to-date on scams. From phishing emails to charity and tax scams, there are numerous ways that fraudsters attempt to steal people’s money. Educate yourself on the fraud trends so that you can spot scams sooner.
5. Watch out for phishing. Be cautious of texts and emails that require you to fill out a form with your personal information. Always verify that the sender is legitimate before you provide them with a banking account or other personal details.
6. Don’t click on suspicious links. Avoid unknown links in texts, emails, and websites. Clicking on them may lead to forms designed to gather your personal information or download malware or viruses onto your devices.
7. Be wary of unknown calls and texts. Scammers often try to connect with individuals via unsolicited texts and phone calls. They may pretend to be someone you’ve met in an attempt to establish a relationship—and eventually access your money.
8. Be smart about social media. Keep aspects of your personal life—your purchases and financial circumstances—as private as possible. You don’t want to establish yourself as a target for bad actors.
9. Monitor your financial accounts. Check your accounts regularly for suspicious transactions or unauthorized purchases. Connect with your financial institution immediately if you see potential fraudulent activities.
10. Set up automatic account alerts. When possible, enable your bank and other financial institutions to send automated alerts of unusual activity. You can confirm whether it’s legitimate and shut down fraud much faster.
11. Limit access to your accounts. If you share a bank or investment account with a partner, ensure they take similar measures to secure their account access and protect your joint data.
12. Be cautious with remote deposits. When you’re depositing checks via your smartphone, do so privately. Document the transaction and secure the check after the fact so no one else can obtain it.
13. Understand your bank’s policies. Find out what your bank does to reduce fraud risk for its customers. Also, ask your banker how the organization responds to fraud and if they have any tips or best practices you can implement.
14. Review account aggregators. Multiple services offer to connect your financial accounts to other apps or each other. Dive into their security measures and understand how they’ll safeguard your information before you sign up.
15. Check your credit reports. Dig into your credit reports at least once a year to ensure the information matches your financial activity. Correct any mistakes so they don’t impact your credit score.
16. Keep your mail secure. Fraudsters often steal mail in search of financial information. Keep your mail safe by using a locked mailbox or a P.O. box.
17. Shred your financial documents. Use a shredder or shredding service to destroy bank, credit card, and investment account statements. The same goes for documents that reveal your social security number, birth date, address, and other data that thieves could use to steal your identity.
18. Secure your WiFi network. Change the name of your network so that it’s not as easily identifiable as yours, and set up a complex password to access it. Also, go into the settings and enable data encryption.
19. Lock down your email. Your emails likely include personal and financial information you want to keep private. Secure your account with both a complex password and multifactor authentication if possible.
20. Report lost or stolen debit and credit cards. Let your financial institution know immediately if your credit or debit card is missing. That way, they can shut down the card before you incur any unauthorized transactions.
21. Look out for credit card skimmers. Criminals can steal card information via point-of-sale devices. Watch out for mobile payment devices that look like they’ve been tampered with or have additional components attached.
22. Minimize your wallet or purse. Keep sensitive information such as social security cards, medical IDs, and passports at home. Instead, carry just what you need to make purchases.
23. Verify online retailers. Ensure you’re buying products from legitimate retailers before inputting payment information. For example, check the website URL to make sure it’s spelled the same as the brand.
24. Be assertive with your financial safety. Listen to your instincts if something feels off, such as a message from your credit card company or a call from a stranger. Don’t worry about saying yes or complying with their ask until you feel comfortable.
Fraud is a constant risk for today’s consumers. However, you can reduce your vulnerability by taking smart steps to secure your finances. Want to learn more about how to prevent financial fraud? Head to valley.com/security to read about the latest news in fraud.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud or you’re unsure, please contact your Banking Team, reach out to Valley Customer Care at 800-522-4100, or connect with us at valley.com/security.
This article is intended for educational purposes only. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are solely of the writer and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Valley Bank. Valley Bank does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.