Thursday, November 29, 2012

Consumer Credit Safety

A recent Federal Reserve report states that the total U.S. consumer debt is $2.5 trillion. This confirms that millions of consumers depend on credit to preserve a desired standard of living. Thieves are taking advantage of these statistics. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Safeguarding personal information is essential for consumer credit safety.

Identity Protection

It’s important for consumers to protect their identities. Thieves use stolen information to open credit card accounts, rent apartments and even obtain employment. Identity fraud can result in devastating consequences for consumers. It can take years to repair damaged credit.

Shop Safely Online

Verify a website’s security when shopping online. The “s” after “http” in the address indicates that a website is secure. A closed padlock icon at the bottom of the screen also signifies a site’s safety.

Shop on familiar sites only or research a company before making an online purchase. Reliable online companies list physical addresses and phone number on their sites. Call the company if in doubt.

Read the website’s privacy and security policy. This states whether the online merchant shares customer information with third parties or not.

Safeguard Credit and Debit Cards at ATMs

Avoid using credit and debit cards at unfamiliar ATMs. Skimmers install surveillance equipment on ATMs to record customer account and pin information. Inspect ATMs for loose or damaged card readers before using. Block the keyboard when entering a pin. Use interior ATMs when possible. Stay away from ATMs in tourist areas as these are popular targets for skimming scams.

Order and Verify Credit Report Information

Federal law permits consumers access to one free credit report per year. A credit report summarizes a consumer’s borrowing and repayment history.  Credit reports contain a great deal of credit history and personal information. These include payment history, credit card and loan balances, age of accounts and any new credit activities. Read the credit report carefully and verify that the information is accurate. Report any errors or suspicious activity immediately by filing a dispute either online or by mail.

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