Your best defense: Monitor financial activity

We close this lesson with helpful suggestions you can use to avoid and respond to fraud.

MichaelWell, we’ve covered a lot of ground on the subject of money safety. But the most important idea we can leave you with is to stay alert, aware and cautious.

CassieI agree: awareness is the key. Your best defense against fraud is to monitor your financial activity carefully…and on a regular basis. Use common sense and be wary. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

MichaelHere’s a list of the key points to remember. We hope you’ll make the effort to protect yourself financially by following each one.

Points to remember

Check your statements
Review your account statements as soon as you receive them. By using online banking services, you can review your transactions more quickly and frequently. Notify your financial institution immediately if you notice errors or unauthorized activity. If your account statement is late in arriving, call your financial institution to find out why.

Always keep your credit card purchase receipts (including online purchases) and check your credit card statements to make sure the purchase amounts are correct. You can review your transactions more quickly and frequently by going online. Immediately dispute any charges that you did not make by notifying your credit card provider.

Put disputes in writing
Immediately upon becoming aware of a disputed item, call your financial institution. Always put disputes regarding your credit card statements in writing; otherwise, you may be held legally responsible for the entire amount of the disputed item. Financial institutions have specific instructions for notifying them of an unauthorized transaction. Ask your credit card issuer about their dispute notification requirements.

Consider online banking
Consider signing up for online banking. This will allow you to monitor your account activity at any time. Never tell anyone your online banking password and change it periodically. Don’t use your Social Security number as your online banking username or password.

Check your credit report
Check your credit report for accuracy at least twice a year. If a report lists unfamiliar accounts with large credit lines, you may be a victim of identity theft. Also review the “Inquiries” section of your reports. Credit reports also tell you who has reviewed your credit history. If a car dealer in another part of the country has pulled your credit report, for example, you may be the victim of identity theft.

When you obtain your credit report, be sure to keep it in a secure place. It contains a lot of your sensitive financial information.

Learn more about credit reports — including how to obtain them and how to read them — in the topic Using Credit to Your Advantage.

If your info is stolen…
If your confidential financial information has been stolen:

  • Contact your financial institution and credit card issuers immediately and alert them to the situation.
  • Contact one of the three major credit bureaus and discuss whether you need to place a fraud alert on you file. This will help prevent thieves from opening a new account in you name.

Here is the contact information for each bureau’s fraud division:

  • Equifax 800-525-6285
  • Experian 888-397-3742
  • TransUnion 800-680-7289

Report all suspicious or fraudulent activity to the Federal Trade Commission at or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT.

Contact the FTC
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them.

The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.

Read more about security tips for using credit, debit, and ATM cards safely.

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