Don't Share Your Credit with Thieves

Taking precautions when either banking or making purchases and using a credit card online or with merchants, is a smart way to do business. We continue to become more integrated with technology and keeping our private information confidential becomes increasingly difficult. Electronic transactions unfortunately can leave us vulnerable to fraud and other crimes.

When setting up passwords, do not use things that come to mind easily, like names of spouse, children, pets or even maiden names. The best passwords mix numbers with upper and lower case letters. Words not found in the dictionary are also a good choice because there are programs that try every word in the dictionary to infiltrate security. A good rule is to change your passwords often and memorize them. If you do write it down, keep it in a safe place and not easily visible to anyone. Don't have your computer or a website remember your password for you because then anyone who uses your computer will have access to information that is password protected.

It is very important to protect your PIN numbers on ATM cards. Don't write it on paper or place it in your wallet. If your wallet is ever lost or stolen, the thief will have all the information they need to remove funds from your account or make unauthorized purchases. Always take your receipt and match it against monthly statements.

When shopping on the internet, do business with companies you know and trust. If you haven't heard of the company, research it or ask for a catalog. Check to see if your connection is secure. For example, in Internet Explorer you should see a small yellow lock in the lower right corner of the screen. In Netscape, the lock is in the lower left corner. Using a secure browser that will encrypt purchase information is an advantage. If there is not encryption consider calling the company's 800 number or faxing your order. Never give a bank account, credit card number or social security number and date of birth to anyone you don't know. Even with partial information, con artists can make unauthorized charges. Making purchases by credit card as opposed to check or money order allows the consumer to always dispute fraudulent charges. You can't get cash back.

Be vigilant in combating crime by being smart regarding the money you work hard to enjoy.