Fight scammers the old-school way

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Scam artists are relentless in finding ways to take your money. But some old-school methods are still effective for protecting yourself. Here are suggestions.

 

 

Fortify your computer and your phone. Install anti-virus and anti-spyware programs and update your protection regularly. Consider firewall software to prevent unauthorized access. Change the password on your computer router from the default, enable and set up the router firewall, and keep your router software up-to-date.

 

Clean out your wallet. Make sure you’re not carrying personal identification numbers for debit or credit cards on a scrap of paper. If you do, anyone stealing your wallet will have open access to your checking account. Sign all your cards. Another old tip also bears repeating: Don’t carry your social security card with you.

 

Delete all spam emails immediately without opening them. Never click on an attachment or follow a link to a web page unless you know the sender. List your telephone number on the national “do not call” list. If a telephone solicitor calls, ask to be put on the company’s “do not call” list and then hang up.

 

Obtain a free copy of your credit report. Go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com and order a free copy of your credit report from at least one of the three major agencies. Review it for mistakes, accounts you don’t recognize, or unknown credit inquiries. If you find something wrong, report it immediately.

For more suggestions, please contact us.

Are you thinking about getting a prepaid debit card? Here are the benefits and drawbacks.

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Prepaid debit cards, also known as stored-value cards, can be useful when you lack a traditional checking account. In an increasingly plastic-dependent world, these cards can be substituted for cash, and you can use them to pay for airline tickets, hotel stays, electronics, and groceries. Money is transferred, or “loaded,” to the card and is yours to spend until the card runs out of funds or is reloaded.

 
Prepaid cards have several advantages over traditional credit and debit cards. For example, if you’re traveling and the card is stolen, losses are limited to the amount on the card. In addition, because your personal banking information isn’t on the card, thieves and con artists can’t extract that data to steal your identity. Another use: Teaching kids how to budget. Some issuers offer instant alerts that monitor card activity, which is a great way for parents to see what their teens are purchasing in real time. If you’re the one who’s prone to overspending, prepaid cards offer a built-in safety net: you can’t spend more than the amount that’s loaded onto the card.

 
But be aware of the lack of regulatory constraints on the cards. Issuers have great latitude over fees and prepaid cards can get expensive. Depending on the card issuer, you might be charged a fee to activate the card, use it at an ATM machine, check your balance, add more money, or talk to customer support. You might be charged a monthly maintenance fee as well. Before you buy, read the fine print.