Protect Your Money from Crooks and Common Mistakes
(St. Charles, MO) – “Show me the money” could have been a snazzy slogan for an investment opportunity before Cuba Gooding, Jr. made it famous on the movie screen. Maybe our slogan should be “Show Me How To Keep My Money” in a still-struggling national economy.
In the new “Missouri Viewpoints”, tips are offered for taking care of what you already have while keeping hackers and scam artists away from your savings.
Dorothy Bell and Mike O’Brien from the St. Louis Credit Union Association (which is part of the Missouri Credit Union Association) have some basic advice to get – and keep – a handle on your money.
“Be proactive.” Bell says “Getting a copy of your credit report often, reviewing it [and] making sure everything is ok…” is a habit everyone should develop. That’s among the best ways to detect problems early, when it’s easiest and least expensive to fix.
Stopping or preventing financial bleeding is one thing but, once that safeguard is in place, many Missourians aren’t proactive about managing their funds. O’Brien says the people who hold on to it for you are a good place to start when it comes to developing a financial plan.
“Don’t be shy about asking questions…a lot of times, they’ll even offer to go over your credit report with you or do some on-the-spot financial counseling.”
That can help you find mistakes in money-management decisions or even spot opportunities to maximize the money you already have deposited.
While grownups of all income brackets are often in need of money management skills, O’Brien and Bell say the best time to teach money management is when tomorrow’s workers and investors are still young. That means, teaching about money as early as during the grade school years.
O’Brien says managing your accounts on your bank or credit union’s websites is safe but once you navigate off that page, be careful.
“Make sure you’re not responding to an email that comes out of the blue.
“Have a credit card with a smaller line of credit that you only use for online shopping. That way, if something did happen and the card was compromised, you’re not at risk.”
There’s certainly no shortage of crooks who want to reach into your pocket from behind a laptop.
“It’s a huge problem.” That’s the report from FBI Special Agent Dean Bryant, who works out of the St. Louis office.
While we should all be careful about where we are buying online, Bryant says the problem sometimes starts off line. Thieves can access personal information by literally digging through the trash. If they find something with your name and address on it, such as credit card offers, they have a head start to your bank account.
Name. Address. Date of Birth. That’s enough for many identity thieves and hackers to inflict damage financially. If they can get your Social Security Number, the possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to what can happen.
You may not notice the damage right away because, often, an identity thief will set up credit cards or purchasing accounts in a victim’s name. Once they receive their purchases, they simply skip out on the bill and that goes right to your credit report or to collection agencies that want the victim to pay up.
“This can wreak havoc for you for years to come.”
That means we need to take the time to look for problems constantly. When the bank account statement and credit card statement arrive, Agent Bryant says look over every line every month.
It may be tedious, but it’s among the best ways to spot purchases you didn’t make. The earlier you can alert the bank, credit card company or authorities, the less damage you’re likely to deal with.
Missouri Credit Union Association: www.MCUA.org
Federal Bureau of Investigation: www.FBI.gov