Ask the Advisor – 11/27/2007

11/27/2007:

Now that the holiday’s are in full swing, the Hoboken411 Financial Advisor covers some basic security issues online and with credit cards.

Use Updated Computer Technology

  • If you’re using a computer at home, keep your operating system up to date, set up a firewall and keep your virus protection and spyware detection programs current. If your computer has a feature for Internet use that notifies you if a form you’re submitting is being redirected, be sure that feature is activated.
  • When conducting online transactions, look for “https” at the beginning of a website’s address—the “s” indicates that the information was transmitted in encrypted fashion from a secure site.

Be reminded of more fundamentally sound ideas after the break.

Safeguard Your Credit Information

  • Consider using one credit card that has a low limit for online purchases.
  • Keep copies of your credit cards in a safe place in your house, and carry only the cards you need.
  • Cancel and then cut up credit cards you don’t use.
  • Take advantage of the free credit report you can get from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three major credit bureaus. You can call 1-877-FACT-ACT (1-877-322-8228) or go to www.annualcreditreport.com. Review the accounts in your name—if you don’t recognize them, contact the credit bureaus immediately.

In working with credit card companies, banks, credit bureaus and law enforcement agencies, the time it takes to recover from identity theft can be extensive. The Javelin/Better Business Survey also found that victims of identity theft spend a high of 40 hours each recovering from the crime. Protecting your information to begin with is certainly the most cost and time-effective strategy.

If you bank with a major institution, such as HSBC, Citibank, Wachovia or Bank of New York, and have debit and/or credit cards, your chances of being protected on several layers are already in existence. These companies have extensive identify theft servicing centers at no cost, open 24 hours a day globally and can easily get you your life back quickly and painlessly, even if your funds domiciled with them are not the ones comprised or affected.

They’ll contact a credit bureau to check your credit report. The credit bureau will place a Fraud Alert on your files; provide information on or assist you in contacting creditors and closing unauthorized accounts; provide advice on submitting police reports and other government-related forms; and if you choose, monitor your credit report and notify you if further possible fraud is detected.

Reminder: How to Respond

Unfortunately, even the most cautious of consumers can still be hit victimized by identity theft. If it happens to you, here are five steps that can help:

  1. Call your financial institution immediately and close the compromised account. Ask what they recommend you do next.
  2. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
  3. Contact the Social Security Administration, which maintains a fraud hotline, 1-800-269-0271.
  4. Contact the fraud division of one of the three main credit bureaus to consider having a fraud alert put on your file. The credit bureau will then notify the other two bureaus of the fraud: Equifax (1-800-525-6285), Experian (1-888-397-3742) and TransUnion (1-800-680-7289). The free 90-day security alert informs creditors that they must contact you before opening a new account or making changes to your existing account.
  5. You can file a police report and submit a copy to the financial institution affected by the fraud as proof of the crime.

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