Are You Balancing Your Bank Statements Every Month?

I’m sure you know you should be checking your bank statements every month for errors and balancing it to your checkbook or other records. Unfortunately, while most people know they should be doing this far too many don’t.

They let the statements pile up and deal with a bunch all at once, maybe even waiting until the end of the year.

There are a couple of problems that this can cause, however.

First, if there are errors on your statement, your bank probably has a limited time for you to report them and have them corrected. Most banks give you 30 or 60 days to report mistakes. If you don’t report them, you’re basically agreeing that the statement is correct.

If you try to address these issues months later, it will be too late.

The other problem is not so much a financial problem as it is a safety issue.

If you aren’t checking your bank statements every month, it’s far too easy for someone to steal it from your mailbox without you realizing it.

Mail theft is one of the most common ways that identity theft can occur. The stuff in your mailbox has all kinds of information about you and if your mail is left somewhere unsecured, a thief can easily grab what they need from it (especially if it sits there until you get home from work at the end of the day).

By checking your bank statements regularly every month, you’ll be much more likely to notice if one is missing. If so, there are a few things you should do:

  • Check with your bank to see if there was a delay of some sort.
  • If they did in fact send it on time, double-check for other things that might be missing such as credit card statements.
  • Check with the post office and see if there is a change of address form on file for your address. Why would there be? Someone could have put a fraudulent change of address on file for you so they receive all your mail. If this happens, notify the post office of the fraud immediately.
  • Contact your local police and report the mail theft.
  • Contact your bank and let them know what happened. You’ll want to change your PIN codes at the very least, but you may even need to change account numbers so the information that was stolen won’t be of any use.

How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft!

[widget:ad_unit-1221255277]There are some real palpable steps you can take to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of one of America’s fastest growing crimes, Identity Theft. Most of these are common sense and involve little more than being diligent with your personal information, but there are some specifics to consider. Let’s look at some of these.

Don’t ever, repeat ever, give your social security number to anyone that doesn’t have a legitimate use for it. You know who that would be. Don’t carry the document in your wallet or purse. Most people have it memorized anyway (which is no license to go around blabbing it!) and you really don’t need to carry it, ever! This piece of information is the most important to safeguard, as lots of damage can be done by someone who shouldn’t be, utilizing this number.
Don’t give your personal information to anyone over the phone if you don’t know who they are and why they need it. Most legitimate companies will not ask you for personal information on a phone call you did not initiate. (If you call them, however, expect to be put through the ringer proving your identity, as they want to safeguard your credit line as much as you do).

Take all your receipts and shred these at home along with other sensitive financial information that you no longer need. Typically that means credit cards statements and bills more than a year old. This does not apply to tax documents. See the IRS for information about that.

If you shop online make sure the website you are purchasing from has basic security protocols in place, such as VeriSign and TrustE symbols on their sites. Many people also use a dedicated credit card for all their online transactions, as this makes keeping track of it easier, and also easier to fix if there is a problem.

Monitor your credit card bills closely and review your credit report at least once a year. If you see anything you don’t recognize call your credit card company immediately. Keeping an eye on your credit report can pay huge dividends, as fixing an identity theft incident can take years of heartache and bother. If you feel as though you may have been victimized, contact your credit card companies immediately, and also the police. The credit card companies will want a police report to substantiate that there has actually been a crime committed. Make sure to record all your conversations and dealings with everyone during the process. This will prove invaluable.

Protecting yourself from identity theft is a matter of safeguarding your personal information like you would a hundred dollar bill. You wouldn’t leave things like that lying around for all to see and expect them to be available to you in the future!

Identity Theft and Your Credit Score

[widget:ad_unit-1221255277]You’ve heard some of the horror stories.  Maybe actually heeded the warnings and put some more safeguards into place. God forbid you’ve been a victim, but identity theft plagues more than 10 million people suffering more than $5 billion dollars of loss. And it’s not just the monetary loss. There’s the countless hours of reinstating, recreating, reconstituting your life that can takes years, and still not be the way it was before. Identity theft is a very real threat, and one of the worst damages it can perpetrate is on your credit score.

Most identity theft involves financial theft using your data, and when this data gets updated by the lenders your credit reports will show a lot of new and interesting entries. This is the major reason why you should check your credit reports at least once a year. The credit bureaus report these items, many of which end up going into collections, and your credit score takes a major ding.

Cleaning up this mess is a nightmare. It can literally take months and years to get the lenders to fix these fraudulent charges, and all the while, your credit score has become a pariah. There are some things you can do to protect yourself. 

Protect you social security number. Don’t give it to anyone who doesn’t have a legitimate reason for needing it, and don’t carry it in your wallet or purse; likewise, your passport. Keep the information on your checks brief; name and address. Shred any sensitive information, like old credit card bills and anything else with identifying information on it, and also any unwanted credit card offers that come in the mail. Never give out personal information over the phone; it could be anybody and you have no way of knowing. A legitimate company you are doing business with will not be doing business this way. Review your credit card bills carefully each month and make sure you don’t use your personal mailbox on your curb to place outgoing bills into. This is a favorite among identity thieves. On the internet try to stick with one credit card if possible for all internet transactions, and look for digital safety certificates like Verisign and Trust-E for compliance with standard internet safety procedures.

If you do become a victim, contact the police to initiate a crime report immediately.  Many of the credit card companies will require this anyhow to know that a crime has occurred. Call your credit card companies to close the offending accounts and request new accounts and numbers. Make sure it is noted that the account is "closed at the customerís request". Then call the credit bureaus, (all three of them) and report this to the fraud units. This will get the ball rolling.

Don’t be dismayed if it takes some time to fix this. The best defense is a good offense. Do everything in your power to protect your information, and you’ll more than likely be passed over for an easier target!