I want to take this space to explain a little more about the various steps one can take to guard against theft of your money or identity, because it’s been in the news so much lately, and I know it can all be confusing.
First, what are we afraid of here? Three things:
1) A thief uses your existing credit card numbers to buy things.
2) Someone impersonates you and opens up new credit accounts or takes out loans in your name.
3) Someone uses your personal information to file a tax return and claim a refund.
In some ways, straightforward credit card fraud is the least frightening. That’s because the credit card companies have gotten very good at flagging charges that are out of the ordinary in any way, and those charges can be reversed when you respond quickly. When I bought gas on a recent trip to New Jersey, the credit card company wanted to make sure it was really me, because I lived in Brooklyn and don’t own a car. It’s also important to look at your own statements each month for charges you don’t recognize, even tiny ones.
The second possibility (more…)