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When things go terribly wrong: Fraud

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You’ve budgeted, saved, gotten (or stayed) out of debt and are starting to see results. And then the unthinkable happens: Someone gains access to your accounts and starts taking your money.

How does it happen and what can you do about it?

There are a lot of ways that fraudsters can gain access to your accounts, but the most common is through electronic means. More and more of us are purchasing items on the internet, which means the potential for fraud keeps rising. The convenience of having groceries, gifts, and anything else you can think of, delivered to our doorstep has made our lives significantly easier over the past 20 years. Unfortunately, that convenience comes with a cost – potential for fraud.

And it isn’t just online shopping that can make you vulnerable to attacks – irresponsibly opening attachments you aren’t expecting, or clicking on email links without checking for authenticity, can install malicious software on your computer.

But there are preventative measures you can take to protect yourself (and your money).

Passwords.

Yes, we know it is so much easier to use things that are easy to remember, like birthdates, initials, etc. Don’t do it. Just don’t. If the information exists out there on the internet, it can be found. And used.

And yes, we get it. It is impossible to remember a different password for every site you frequent. It is. But using the same password for every site means, if they get access to one, they get access to all. For this reason, it is imperative that you not use the same password for your email and your online banking login. Likewise, do not use either of those two crucial passwords for any other site.

Need help? There are password generation and protection services out there – many for free! We can’t say this enough: guard your passwords!

Email.

Delete emails with attachments or links that come from sources you do not know or aren’t expecting. If it seems suspicious but you are worried it might be legit, go to the website and contact someone directly from there rather than clicking on the link or opening the attachment. The same goes for ads: see a deal you just can’t pass up? Skip the link and go directly to the site to make sure it really came from the company and the deal is legitimate.

Online Purchases.

If you use your debit card online, only use it at sites you can trust. Before entering any personal or financial data, check the URL to make sure it says https:// (the s is for secure) and has a lock icon.

And don’t make debit card purchases from public computers. Key logging software can steal your data, including login information, email and mailing address, and debit card information. And public Wi-Fi can be just as bad – your data can be intercepted while it is being transmitted. Make sure you are on trustworthy Wi-Fi and a computer you can trust.

Fraud Alerts.

Another way to protect yourself from fraud is to sign up for a service that notifies you when electronic transactions seem unusual for your typical activity. Products like Debit Card Alerts (1) allow you to be more active in monitoring your account transactions and reporting suspicious activity by sending you near real-time alerts via email or SMS (text) based on parameters you create (minimum transaction amount, online orders, cash back, etc.).

Even if you do all of these things, there is no guarantee that you will not fall victim to fraud – but it will help! If you do find yourself dealing with fraud, identify and report the fraud as quickly as possible and learn what your rights and responsibilities are. It will go a long way toward minimizing any losses you may have.

Want to learn more about the types of schemes you should be on the lookout for? Check out our Social Engineering and Email Compromise blog posts.

(1) American Riviera Bank does not charge a fee for the use of Card Transaction Alerts. If you do not already have a data plan with your wireless service provider, data rates may apply.