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Practical ways to avoid bank fraud, identity theft

ChristianPF, a website providing money-saving tips and advice on getting out of debt, offers practical tips on how not to become victims of unsound banking practices

MANILA, Philippines—In this nation, consumers and entrepreneurs have to be on the alert at all times. The fact is, they cannot always rely on the government to protect them and their interests.

When planning to invest, they need to steer clear of pyramid scams. When planning to put up a business or doing business with the government itself, they need to be wary of glib-tongued fixers.

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The same philosophy applies when transacting with banks—whether personally or online.

Recently, there have been reports of rising complaints about unsound banking practices, some of which include hacking into e-mail accounts and disclosing the details of debts to certain individuals about credit card holders, depositors and those who have availed themselves of bank loans.

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Not that we’re driving consumers to be cynical, but bank clients can actually avoid being duped by following these practical tips as recommended by ChristianPF (for “Personal Finance”), a website providing money-saving tips and advice on getting out of debt, to name a few.

Review bank statements regularly. ChristianPF advises clients to review their statements thoroughly and look for transactions that appear “abnormal.” It says statements sent via e-mail should never be deleted.

Keep these statements in a safe, secure place. Hard copies of bank and billing statements and those received via snail mail should be immediately filed.

Otherwise, says ChristianPF, you could inadvertently leave private information out in the open when guests and extended family members are around.

Keep your bank and credit card statements far away from the high-traffic areas of your home. “It’s best to keep them filed in a room that’s out of sight,” it says.

Discard documents the right way. A lot of personal information is floating around on statements and other pieces of mail, so decrease your chances of fraud by investing in a quality paper shredder, ChristianPF advises.

“Old bank statements, checks and other outdated documents should be shredded regularly. Be mindful of how you store and delete statements on your computer. A folder titled ‘bank statements’ is a red flag for someone who stumbles across your files through a shared connection,” it says.

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Don’t log in at public places. ChristianPF is strongly against checking personal information and account details in libraries, coffee shops and other public places.

“While these places try to provide secure connections, it’s no guarantee that someone doesn’t break through the firewall and search through your files. That’s why you shouldn’t have a folder called ‘bank statements’ or ‘online passwords,’” it says.

In other words, think of other file names that will give no clues to hackers as to the contents of your folders but which you can easily remember.

Never e-mail sensitive information. E-mail messages should not include account numbers, user names, passwords or PINs, or credit card information, ChristianPF says, because e-mail can be likened to a postcard—so many people can read it before it reaches its intended recipient.

Change your password often. Don’t use the word “password” in any of your passwords. ChristianPF says most of the time, it’s not really hard to guess a password because the most common password used in business systems is “Password1.”

ChristianPF suggests making sure your password is a mixture of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols. For added protection, it says, you may change your password every couple of months.

Also, it’s a good idea to type your user name and password each time you go online instead of letting your browser save it for you, ChristianPF advises.

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TAGS: bank fraud, banking security, Internet, online banking, Personal finance
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