Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Tips for Safeguarding Your Money

Treat your credit and debit cards like your house keys: Don’t let them out of your sight.
Never write your PIN on your card.
Never dispose off card receipts in a public place.
Pick a PIN that isn’t obvious to others, and never write it on—or attach it to—your card.
Cancel any inactive credit accounts.
Never give out card numbers to unsolicited callers.
Check for security icons on a business's Web site before keying in your account number to ensure your transaction is secure.
Know that banks and other legitimate businesses never ask for passwords, account numbers or updated information via email. Never click on a link in a suspicious e-mail.
Keep information about all your cards—including account numbers, expiration dates, and card issuers’ telephone numbers—in a safe place at home so you can act quickly if a card is ever lost or stolen.
Destroy any documents that might have account numbers or other personal information.
Do's & Don'ts
Do’s...

pay your credit card bills regularly. Some people think carrying a balance month-to-month is fine. It’s not. Your monthly due date is a deadline. Pay your entire bill, or everything you can afford, each month just like you would your rent.
pay your bill near the end of your grace period. i.e. the time between your purchase date and the date that interest begins to build. This is the equivalent of a free short-term loan. Check the terms of your credit card, but as a rule of thumb, paying on or just before your due date will likely allow you to enjoy the free loan without incurring interest charges.
contact your card issuer if you have problems. For example, if your bill is delivered late or you know you will be unable to pay your bill on time, contact them to make payment arrangements. Look on your bill for details on how to contact your issuer for questions or problems.
consider a credit card with a low interest rate if you plan on carrying a balance each month. Learn how to select a card. And be sure to learn the impact of compounding interest — the amount you’re charged in interest on top of purchase and interest charges unpaid in previous months.

Don’t...

use your credit card like a second paycheque. And, do not purchase goods beyond your means.
put off paying your bill if you’re near or past your due date. Payments are processed for the day they are received, not the day they are mailed. If you pay by DD, mail your payment as many as five business days to arrive. And, never send cash.
be ashamed to make payment arrangements if you have financial difficulties. The longer you ignore your bills the worse they get.
underestimate the negative impact of late payments. Most issuers calculate interest daily, so the longer you wait the more you pay. Late payments can also lead to late fees, higher interest, and a black mark on your credit history.
Safe Shopping Online

Check the seller's reputation.
Learn as much as you can about companies or individuals before you do business with them.
Check with the Better Business Bureau and consumer agencies to find out about complaints.
See if the seller's Web site has a feedback forum where other people who have done business with the seller can put information about their experience with that seller.
Ask your friends about their favorite online merchants.
Stay vigilant. Just because a seller has no complaints or a good reputation doesn't guarantee that things will go smoothly for you.
Use a secure browser Your browser should be able to use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which scrambles or encrypts the purchase information you send over the Internet, helping to secure your transaction. Browsers which support SSL include Internet Explorer, Netscape, AOL, Opera and Mozilla.
How to use your card safely and securely.

To help prevent fraudulent use of your card, here are steps you should take.

Sign new cards as soon as you receive them.
Keep your card account numbers and personal identification number (PIN#) in a confidential place.
Check your cards periodically to make sure none are missing.
Destroy and dispose of copies of receipts, airline tickets, travel itineraries, anything that displays your card numbers.
Memorize your PIN.
Check out unfamiliar companies by calling your local consumer protection agency.
Don't provide information that you're uncomfortable giving.
NEVER give anyone the password that you use to log on to your online account or Internet Service Provider.
Don't provide financial account information unless you are paying for a purchase using that account.
Recognizing fraud

Fraud is any transaction that is not made by you. There are several forms of fraud.

Lost or stolen card.

Your card is lost or stolen and the card is subsequently used without your permission.
Non-receipt

You did not receive a new or replacement card that was sent to you by your Issuing bank. You may have no idea that the card was missing until you receive a statement listing transactions not made by you.
Fraudulent application

Your personal information is used to apply for a credit card. This type of fraud is often difficult to detect until the issuer receives a complaint from the consumer or the account goes into collections shortly after having been issued. If you're not a customer of the bank that issued the card, you may not know a card has been issued in your name until you apply for credit elsewhere and are denied because of a poor credit rating.
Counterfeit

Even though the card is issued to you by your bank, transactions appear on your account statement not made by you. This could be an indication that a counterfeit card bearing your account number is in circulation and being used at the same time you're making legitimate purchases.
Account takeover

While you're in possession of your card, somebody else posing as the cardholder "takes over" the account by requesting a replacement card on the same account, usually to be mailed to a different address. You would not know this has been done until you receive an account statement showing transactions not made by you or you fail to receive your monthly account statement.
No card present

While you're in possession of your card, somebody makes transactions using the card number only, as in the case of mail orders, phone orders, or Internet transactions. You may not know this has been done until you receive an account statement showing mail/phone order or online transactions not made by you.
Other scenarios

There are other scenarios that are classified as fraud, but don't fall into the described categories. An example would be the theft and subsequent use of balance transfer checks, which you may or may not have ordered from your bank.
What to do if you suspect a breach

Call the bank or financial institution that issued your card immediately. Your issuer may want to cancel your current card and issue you a new one. Check with your issuer to verify that your mailing address has not been changed.

If you still have your card but fraudulent purchases have been made, call your issuer to report the fraud and request a new card.

Also, contact the credit bureaus to let them know that fraud has occurred. A "Fraud Alert" message will be placed on your file. You should also request a copy of your credit report and review it carefully.

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