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Stay safe online. BBB offers plenty of ideas to prevent identity theft

Q: My wife’s debit card was compromised a couple of days ago. We contacted our bank right away. Fortunately, we did not suffer any losses. Is there anything that we can do to prevent this from happening again?

A: Unfortunately, we have found that nobody is immune to identity theft. It can happen to individuals as well as businesses. However, there are lots of things you can do to help you prevent this from happening again. If you see any of these warning signs, you are probably the next ID theft victim:

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▪ Charges on your account that you did not authorize.

▪ Withdrawals from your bank account that you cannot explain.

▪ You are not receiving bills in the mail that you are used to receiving.

▪ Your card is declined or your checks are refused by a merchant.

▪ You are contacted by debt collector about a debt that is not yours.

▪ New accounts show up on a credit report and you did not authorize them.

Here’s what you can do to proactively limit your vulnerabilities. Again, nobody is immune, but you should:

▪ Pay attention. Monitor your accounts and your statements regularly.

▪ If you do any business online, change your passwords regularly and make sure to use strong passwords. Do not store passwords on your device.

▪ Look for secure sites, designated by “https” in the URL. The s is for secure.

▪ Or you can go to whois.net to look up the domain registry of a site.

▪ Keep your security software and virus protection software up to date.

▪ Go to annualcreditreport.com. Once per year you can get a free credit report. By monitoring your own credit report you can see if there are any unusual items listed and dispute them early on.

▪ Before you make a purchase with anything other than cash, make sure you know with whom you are doing business.

▪ Credit card purchases are easier to dispute, should a purchase go awry.

▪ Don’t use money transfer services to send money to people you don’t know and trust.

▪ Be careful with email. Make sure you know who is really sending info to you especially if the email is unsolicited. Don’t click on links or open files if you are not sure. Put your mouse over the link in the email and look at the lower left corner of the screen to make sure the domain name matches the company that appears to be sending the email.

▪ Never give personal information to anyone unless you are sure you know who is contacting you.

Smart people get scammed every day. Awareness and education are the best tools we have in the fight against ID theft. The more information you have, the better you can help protect yourself.

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or info@cencal.bbb.org.

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