Technology is so much a part of our lives we take it for granted its power and ability to rip us off.
We Instagram, tweet, share and update our statuses more than ever before. It’s fun, informative and helps stay in touch with family and friends. Unfortunately, it also makes us sitting ducks for identity theft.
So much so, that according to credit bureau Veda, fraudulent credit applications involving identity theft in Australia rose 59 per cent in the past two years. That’s a huge spike and should serve as a reminder to revisit your personal security to protect yourself from identity theft.
Here are 6 ways to defend yourself against these financial burglars.
Regularly check bank statements
A common tactic of fraudsters is to charge small transactions to bank accounts and credit cards to test if they will be detected. If they go unnoticed, they come back for a much bigger bite next time.
So it pays to regularly check your bank and credit card statements for any unusual transactions… even if they are small and you don’t think they’re worth worrying about. The added benefit is it’ll make you more aware of where your money is going and hopefully balance the budget better as a result.
Keep snail mail safe
Bank statements, investment reports, licenses, utility bills and superannuation statements are all gold for identity thieves, who are after pretty much anything with your personal information. Unfortunately, a lot of these documents still come by snail mail and are left in unsecured mail boxes.
Where possible, we opt for digital statements that are secured behind our email or internet banking passwords. However a simple combination lock on your letterbox or post office box can provide valuable security and peace of mind too.
Check your credit file
Unfortunately you may be the victim of identity fraud without knowing it, which means it’s important to be proactive in detecting any unusual activity, not just preventing it.
As financial fraudsters generally use stolen identities to apply for loans or credit cards, you can keep a tab on activity through credit bureaus. Get CreditScore.com.au allows you to check your credit score online, and you’re also entitled to a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, so check in once a year.
Stay secure online
It goes without saying that you need to regularly change your PINs and passwords to stay secure, but so few people do this, let alone change them to complex combinations that are hard to guess.
An app we use at work to make sure people stay on top of security is 1Password, which is an encrypted digital vault where you can save all your passwords across all your devices. If there is any security issue, you get alerted and prompted to change the relevant passwords.
Of course maintaining up to date anti-virus software, avoiding email and banking on public computers and keeping your mobile and laptop secure are simple but essential rules too.
Don’t fall for phishing scams
Fraudsters often try impersonating bank employees to get sensitive information out of unsuspecting customers. They might claim to have a ‘bank error in your favour’ or request credit card details to ‘unlock your account’.
To keep out of trouble, you should never EVER provide any sensitive information over an incoming phone call or email, no matter how tempting or legitimate their enquiry may be. Unfortunately, many elderly people fall victim here, so if you have a vulnerable family member ask them to always consult you with financial correspondence.
Keep social profiles private
While this probably isn’t the place where you’re going to have your financial details stolen, the personal information you share online can help corroborate a crook’s story, so be careful. Jump in to the security settings on your social profiles to make sure you’re not sharing too much with people you don’t know.
Most social platforms have easy to understand guides for security preferences, so there’s really no excuse not to be in control of your information.
For a generation of young Australians dining out on conspicuous consumption, the upcoming festive season has all the ingredients of being a financial disaster.
Honesty is the best policy. Does this describe you?
. there are fewer dollars left at the end of each pay period and you have to dip into savings, if any, regularly.
. the credit cards are regularly maxed out.
. can only afford to meet the minimum payment on the monthly credit card bill.
. you’re unprepared for unexpected expenses which may crop up like house and car repairs.
. you lose sleep at night worrying about how much you owe and how to pay it back.
If this is you then it’s time to act.
- Understand the difference between good and bad debt. Good debt is borrowing to invest in quality shares and property or to buy a home or start a course to improve your career. Bad debt is borrowing or using a credit card to buy consumer items like clothes, travel and entertainment. There’s no faster way to fall in to debt.
- Do a budget to control your spending. It’s just so easy to flash the credit card and spend literally thousands of dollars without giving it a second thought. It’s too easy. Start a routine of writing down everything you spend and at the end of every month examine what you’ve done.
- Pay off your most expensive debt first. It’s common sense, but pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. So, for instance, don’t pay more off the mortgage until the credit cards are wiped out.
- Don’t fall in to the minimum trap. The bottom line is it will take years to pay off the balance while the interest payments will skyrocket. Eat in to that balance.
- Build an emergency stash. Stick the equivalent of 3-6 months salary in to an at-call savings account which just sits there to meet the unexpected… don’t touch it for any other reason.
- Get help quick. If you’re in trouble, talk about it. Talk to your bank or credit card issuer about a payment program tailored to getting you out of trouble..