With all of the fraud breaches recently, it may behoove you to understand and protect yourself from potential fraud banking before it happens.

There are many components to the topic of fraud prevention and OnlineOnGuard.gov is a great resource created by the United States government where you can learn how to secure your computer, avoid scams, and protect kids online.

Below is important information on some of the topics on OnGuardOnline.gov:

Maintaining a Safe Computer

Use security Software that Updates Automatically – This applies to operating system software and Web browsers, too. Do not buy security software in response to unexpected pop-up messages or emails – especially those that claim to have scanned your computer and found Malware.  

Be Very Careful with Your Personal Information – Every time you are asked to share personal information – via the Internet, an email, or even a text message – think first about whether you trust the request.  

Provide Personal Information over Encrypted Websites Only – If you are banking or shopping online, stick to sites that use encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their servers. To find out if a Website is encrypted, look for “https” at the beginning of the web address in green. Before submitting information, always double check that there is an “S” behind the http – the “S” stands for secure.

Create Strong Passwords and Keep them Safe – Below are a few tips for creating and maintaining secure passwords:

– The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack. Use at least 10 characters; 12 is good for most home users.

– Mix letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t use your name, birthdate, or common words.

– Don’t use the same password for all accounts.

– Don’t share passwords on the phone, in texts or by email. Legitimate companies will not send you messages asking for your password. If you get such a message, it’s probably a scam.

– Keep your passwords in a secure place, out of plain sight.

Use Caution When Wiring Money – It is hard to reverse a transaction that took place through a wire, therefore, fraudsters often insist that people wire money, especially overseas. Do not wire money to strangers. Don’t agree to deposit a check and immediately wire money – you are responsible for the checks you deposit.

Review Your Monthly Account Statements – If you see charges that are unfamiliar or that you did not authorize, contact your bank, card issuer or other creditor immediately.

Do Not Reply to Messages Requesting Personal Information – This includes texts, emails or Internet advertisements. Don’t click on links or call phone numbers included in the message.

Put a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Reports

Contact one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies, and ask to put a fraud alert on your credit report:

Equifax:          1.888.766.0008, www.equifax.com

Experian:        1.888.397.3742, www.experian.com

TransUnion:   1.888.909.8872, www.transunion.com

The one company you call must contact the others. They will also place fraud alerts on your file.

A fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open any accounts in your name. The alert stays on your credit report for at least 90 days. After you create an Identity Theft Report, you can ask for an extended alert on your file.

Review Your Credit Reports

After you place a fraud alert on your credit reports, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each credit reporting company. Read the reports; check to see if your name, address, Social Security number, accounts, and other information are correct.

If the report shows accounts you didn’t open or debts that are not yours, contact the credit reporting companies to report the fraud and have them corrected. You may want to contact the security or fraud department of each company where an account was misused or opened without your knowledge. Ask the company to send you proof that it corrected or closed the problem accounts.

With these tips you should be able to keep fraud banking at bay!