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I use my credit cards for every purchase that I can to earn miles and points. When you use your credit cards so much, there is always a possibility that you’ll encounter fraud. When fraud happens, you want to identify it as soon as possible and notify the bank to reduce your chance of liability and to stop the criminals.
Is there any way to protect yourself from fraud?
I believe that the answer is no. Even if you chose a cash-only lifestyle, there are plenty of databases with your personal information that can be hacked. For instance, the Federal Government and Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance were both hacked in 2015. The Federal Office of Personnel Management was hacked and had 21 million affected citizens both inside and outside the government. The Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance hack affected 10 million customers in New York.
And the Social Security Administration announced in February 2016 that cybercriminals may have stolen sensitive personal tax information for more than 700,000 taxpayers in an attempt to file false tax returns in order to cash in on lucrative tax refunds.
In these situations, even if you never used a credit card, your information could still be at risk.
For me, I’ve had several instances of fraud. Most were from someone getting my credit card information and going on a shopping spree. However, there was another instance where someone was able to open a Sprint cell phone account under my name. I only found out about the account when I received a notice of an unpaid bill.
What steps should you take to protect yourself?
If you can’t stop fraud from happening, the best thing you can do is be vigilant in keeping track of your personal finances and personal information.
If you haven’t already, add an annual reminder to your calendar to check each of the 3 credit bureaus’ (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) once per year. You can access them at no charge and no subscription through the Federal government sponsored website AnnualCreditReport.com.
How the Penny app helps you stop fraud
I recently heard about the iPhone app called Penny. This app syncs with all of your credit cards and notifies you whenever charges or credits post to your credit cards.
Here’s a recent sample of charge notification from Penny. Unfortunately, I was so focused on stopping the fraud immediately, I didn’t take a screen shot of it.
Mojang.com is an online video and app-based game publisher, such as Minecraft, where you can buy games and pay for subscription services. Since I never I contacted my credit card company and notified them of the fraudulent charge.
If I hadn’t been using Penny, it may have been several days, or more, before I realized that fraud had occurred. Fraud isn’t always major purchases that drain your accounts. Criminals are getting smarter and some would rather hit your account regularly for small charges that you don’t notice so they can rack up $1000s worth of charges over time.
Other benefits of using Penny
Besides the notifications of whenever you spend money, which is how I spotted the fraud, Penny offers some other really cool features.
Penny starts off by offering data as a conversation, vs drop-down menus that you are probably most familiar with. The categories that Penny tracks are very basic – Bills, Food, Transportation, Other, and Income. So, you’re not going to get the same functionality as you would with Mint, Personal Capital (affiliate link), or any others.
The Penny app does require a little adjustment at first to categorize your spending and to delete account transfers so that they don’t count as spending or income. As frustrating as it may be for some people who are used to having tons of data, the simplicity is also a little refreshing in today’s world of mega data.
Whether you have one debit card attached to a bank account or 40+ credit cards and multiple bank accounts like I do, you need to have control over your money. When you can integrate useful apps like Penny into your daily routine, it helps to ease the burden of tracking your money and stopping fraud right away.