5 Common Ways to Protect Against Fraud

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Here are basic precautions against identity theft, check fraud and other financial scams:
1. Be wary of requests to "update" or "confirm" personal information -- especially your Social Security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers (including security codes), personal identification numbers (PINs), your date of birth or your mother's maiden name -- in response to an advertisement or an unsolicited call, letter or e-mail. Your bank won't call or e-mail you to confirm account numbers or passwords it already has.
2. Assume that any offer that "sounds too good to be true" -- especially one from a stranger or an unfamiliar company -- is probably a fraud. Example: You receive a call or letter announcing you've won a lottery or other prize you don't remember signing up for, and you are told to pay "taxes" or "fees" before you can claim your (nonexistent) prize.
3. Beware of transactions in which another party sends you a check for more than you are due and then asks you to wire back the difference.
4. Look at your bank statements and credit card bills as soon as they arrive and report any discrepancy or anything suspicious, such as an unauthorized withdrawal or charge.
5. Keep bank and credit card statements, tax returns, credit and debit cards and blank checks out of sight, even at home. Also shred sensitive documents before discarding them. Why? Because dishonest relatives, neighbors, workers around the house and other people could use these items to commit identity theft or other crimes.
6. Periodically review your credit reports to make sure an identity thief hasn't obtained a credit card or loan in your name. Experts suggest that, to maximize your protection, you request copies from all three credit bureaus but spread out the requests during the course of the year.
Tags: warnings, fraud