Though there are plenty of common sense tips that can help you avoid credit card fraud and identity theft, there are some services your financial institution may offer that could help, too.
Some of these high-tech features can stop fraud in its tracks; and considering how much trouble credit card fraud can be, you may find these services to be worthwhile—even if they come at an extra cost. However, you’ll find that a lot of the best tools to help protect you from fraud are free and may already be offered by your financial institution.
So if you’re worried about fraud, here are some features you should ask your bank or credit union about.
Online and mobile banking: Though they do not prevent fraud, online and mobile banking options allow you to check your balance and transactions whenever you want; which can make it quick and easy to identify fraud when it happens. Even though these banking options are common features offered by practically every financial institution, don’t underestimate their value. Keeping your eyes open for signs of fraud is one of the best ways to stop it before it drains your accounts and ruins your credit.
Just remember to check your account regularly. We recommend at least once a week. If you spot any signs of fraud, let your financial institution know immediately. The quicker you alert them, the quicker you can get the situation remedied. And while you’re using online banking, it’s also a good idea not to use the same password for other services, which could make it easier for a thief to access your account information.
Transaction notifications: This feature may be part of your financial institution’s online banking service, or it may be separate. Either way, it will allow you to setup alerts for different kinds of transactions. Depending on your financial institution, your options will vary as to what types of transactions you can get notifications from and whether you’ll get the notifications by email, text message, or even an automated phone call. However they work, these alerts act as an early warning system to let you know that a potentially fraudulent transaction has been made so you can address it immediately.
PenFed’s own Card Security Text Alerts will send you a text message about suspicious transactions, and allow you to respond via text to validate the transaction or alert PenFed of fraud. This lets you know about potential fraud a lot more quickly than a statement in the mail or even regularly checking online banking.
Credit monitoring services: If you’ve been the victim of a data breach that’s put your information at risk—like the massive data theft Target experienced over the holidays—you may be entitled to free credit monitoring services. If not, you can usually pay for this monitoring from your financial institution or an outside agency. You can also save yourself the cash, and do it yourself by keeping an eye on your credit report.
Just go to annualcreditreport.com to request your report. You can get a free report annually from the major credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. By staggering your requests, you can get a report from a different agency three times a year to keep an eye on your credit. If you see anything on your credit report that is not correct or you did not do, contact the company that issued the account or the credit reporting company that issued the report.
Fraud or identity theft protection services: You can expect that your financial institution offers plenty of fraud and identity protection services, and many of them are probably free. These services are likely to limit liability and may cut down on the hassle of restoring your account as well. Before opening an account, be sure you know what kind of protections are available, and what they cost you.
If you’re concerned enough to spring for additional protection services from either your financial institution or a third party, be sure you know exactly what you’re getting. While the marketing on such services will try to sell it to you as essential, you may find that free options offer as much protection as you need. Federal regulations limit your liability, and often your card issuer will waive even that small dollar amount.
Whatever your situation, any or all of these services can help you keep an eye on your financial information and avoid fraud and identity theft. Better still, many of these solutions won’t cost you a dime.