Who's In Your Wallet?

A while back my debit card got hacked. Yep, some loser got a hold of my card number. The assailant attempted to use it to purchase various computers and equipment, along with a Match.com membership.  And while some of the smaller charges hit my account, thanks to the fine people in the fraud detection department of my bank, the charges were blocked. 

Luckily the fraud was detected in time. Luckily the loser wasn't able to clean my checking account out. And while I try to be super careful when using my cards, sometimes the good guy just gets the short end of the stick. 

So, how can you protect yourself against becoming a victim? Easy. Build a bunker, grow your own food, use solar energy, and only trade in gold bullion. However, if you're anything like me, this isn't quite a viable option. Don't get me wrong...if you're in the first category I mentioned, feel free to bring me cucumbers and berries from your garden. I love cucumbers and berries...bring a lot~ But for the rest of you, here are some precautions you can take:
  • Only purchase items online through a secure site. This is pretty basic, but often times when that amazing deal pops up, it's easy to bypass the risk factors.
  • When making online purchases, use a credit card. Not a debit card, but a credit card. Why? Thieves tend to make as many attempts as possible in a very short amount of time. Within hours your checking account could be emptied out. Credit cards usually have a limit in place, so the amount of charges are, well, limited. With credit and debit cards, fraud purchases are typically refunded with no liability to you, but that doesn't mean it comes without a headache, or other liabilities. Say you have auto-payments set up for your mortgage/rent, utilities, and other items that hit when your account is sitting at a zero balance... Late charges or returned ACH charges may apply. By using a credit card it helps your checking account stay out of arms reach from the hacker. 
  • Check your credit report for free! Yes, I said free. Annual Credit Report allows you to check your report from the three main reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. I suggest setting up a reminder to do one of these every four months. For example, Experian in January, TransUnion in May, and Equifax in September. This allows you to make sure no one is attempting to open cards and loans in your name. It also saves the $25 or so a month some credit protection agencies charge. 
  • If your card allows, set up withdrawal or balance alerts. I have this set up on all of my cards, and if a charge or withdrawal of the limit I have established happens, I receive a text on my phone. This is an amazing way not only to keep your funds protected, but with all of the incoming text alerts it will hopefully remind you to keep your unnecessary spending at a minimum. 
While credit protection agencies and fraud protection plans do work, with technology where it is now, you can monitor your own accounts just as easily and save the cash. 

Hope these suggestions help you protect your hard earned money. Oh, and if your into that whole online dating thing, steer clear of my card-thieving Match.com dude... If history repeats itself, you'll be stuck with the tab on that date~

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"Image courtesy of  ddpavumba, published on 08 October 2013 Stock Image - image ID: 100206594 FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

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