With numerous recent data breaches compromising personal and financial information, INPIRG (a statewide, student-directed, consumer advocacy organization) offers the following tips for consumers:
1. Check your bank and credit card statements regularly for fraudulent transactions, and report them immediately.
2. Beware of phishing. When a thief has some of the information needed to commit identity theft, he will call or email you (often pretending to be your bank) to try to get the additional information needed to open new accounts in your name. Never click on any links in emails from people you don’t know or give any information to anyone who calls you.
Instead, call the number on the back of your card and ask for the fraud department.
3. Don’t pay for expensive credit monitoring services. You have the right under federal law to look at each of your three credit reports once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com. You can stagger these requests — one every four months — to do your own credit monitoring at no cost.
4. So long as you can avoid running up credit card debt, always use credit cards in stores or online. Your rights are stronger by law with credit cards than debit cards, and you don’t run the risk of missing funds from your checking account for weeks while the bank conducts a fraud investigation.
Alec Sprague Midwest Federal Advocate INPIRG