Savvy consumers are always looking for new ways to protect their cash and keep their accounts safe from the access of hackers or thieves. Here are a few top tips, which are favorites, from your Tri-State BBB.
1. Know When It’s Best to Use Credit, Debit or Cash– Credit works best for online transactions or expensive purchases where the protections of a credit card may guard you from fraud, damaged items or grossly misrepresented products. Debit cards work well for more “everyday” purchases with known retailers, when you may be short on cash or have the immediate funds already within your bank. Cash may work best when you shop with very small vendors, at events where credit card readers might not be an option, or when purchase amounts are very small.
2. Use Multi-Step Authentication on All Accounts and Create Strong Passwords– Multi-step authentication can be requested on many checking, savings and credit accounts. It is a deterrent for hackers or thieves because of the multiple layered security steps that must be taken to gain account access. Strong passwords are also imperative – and think of changing them periodically too! Synching this with an annual or semiannual event, like changing the batteries in smoke alarms, can help. Make sure passwords include numbers, letters, and capitalization and avoid overly simple personal information, like your current address. Also vary passwords by account so that if one password is obtained, access is not available for all of your accounts. Having trouble remembering passwords? Keep a secure file with all passwords in a lock box or protected computer file. Free applications are also available to help with this task.
3. Let Your Credit and Debit Card Companies Know When You’re Leaving Town– It’s a security measure that’s fallen to the wayside with the ease and frequency of travel, but this step can be helpful in protecting your accounts and is sometimes required. Speak with your credit or debit card companies if you plan to travel more than a couple of hours in distance away from your home and also provide the length of your stay. This will prevent security denials when you are making purchases during travel, while also alerting these companies to any suspicious activities, should they occur, on your accounts.
4. Use Caution at the ATM and Checkout Counter– Especially with so many keypads now facing consumers at the checkout, it is easier than ever for thieves to snoop for credit card and personal identification numbers. If someone is uncomfortably close, forgo entering your PIN. Ask to run the transaction as “credit” or use another form of payment.
While standing at an ATM, follow the same rules and do not use a machine in an area that is dimly lit or when someone is uncomfortably close. Make sure to take your ATM receipt when your transaction is complete and do not rummage through personal items or count cash while standing at ATM machines.
5. Protecting Your Cash From Theft– In the event of a burglary, “under the mattress” might be the first place checked for cash in your home, but there are plenty of other creative options directly within reach. Consider an old pill bottle in the cabinet, in the pocket of a “particular shirt,” inside the Christmas decoration box or in an envelope under the kid’s toy chest. Ideas like this might be much safer than a locked jewelry box or personal bank.
When traveling, consider a pouch inside your clothing or a “dummy wallet” for any potential thieves. Keep some cash in a separate place in case of an emergency and avoid purses or backpacks easily opened or snatched.
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While the BBB endeavors to provide accurate information to the public, changes in the law, facts or circumstances may have occurred since the foregoing was posted. The BBB recommends doing independent research and consulting professional advisors concerning a particular situation.