Protecting yourself from fraud

Credit cards, social media, retail stores and restaurants are just a few places to which we provide our private information – anything from social security numbers to birthdates and addresses. With this kind of willingness to give away personal data, there's really no wonder that identity theft and fraud occur. However, by ensuring your information is protected, your personal accounts will be safe. For tips on how to guard your information, check out the tips below:

1. Check the security of the site
If you're going to provide any type of personal information online, especially your name and credit card information, you need to make sure the site is safe. If the site is secure, the ​URL will usually start with "https" and a lock will appear in the address bar, according to the FBI. However, just because a site looks secure, doesn't mean it is. As an extra precaution, the agency suggested researching the security software the site uses and contacting the owner of the site for more information.

2. Examine your bank statements
If you're like most Americans, you probably have an account at a local bank. You potentially have online banking, which keeps track of all the transactions you make, as well. Whenever you receive a statement or make a purchase, make sure it's for items you've bought for the correct amounts. You should always keep your receipts to compare to your bank statements, and when you sign a slip, you should never leave a line blank, the Federal Trade Commission explained. This will prevent you from being overcharged or being charged for fraudulent purchases.

3. Protect your passwords
We have online accounts for pretty much everything these days, from remote shopping to mobile banking. Those usually force us to create usernames and passwords. However, to have top-notch security – or the most you'll get online – you need a secure password. That means "12345" and "password" won't cut it. The longer and more random your password, the better, according to Business Insider. Throw in characters that aren't letters, such as hashtags, numbers and punctuation. Your password will be even stronger if you make up a word. It doesn't even matter if it makes sense as long as you remember it. Another way to protect your password – don't share it.

4. Discard old documents appropriately
Chances are good that you've received bank statements, a new debit card or bills within the last couple months. What do you do with the old ones once you're done? You need to dispose of them properly and not just throw them in the trash bin, the FTC said. This means shredding and cutting anything that has any sort of personal information on it. If it's unreadable, those who might want to steal your identity won't be able to gain any information from it.

5. Report it
If you notice something awry, don't hesitate. Report your unauthorized purchases or stolen card to your credit card company, your bank and your local police department, the FBI's website said. If you notice your card missing or miscellaneous charges and report it within 24 hours, you have no responsibility to pay for any purchases you didn't make, according to the FTC. Don't wait just because you think your card will turn up. It never hurts to err on the side of caution and get a new account and a replacement. 

In today's world, all of our information is either on a card or a website. Sometimes it's unavoidable. However, that doesn't mean your personal information should be easy to steal. By taking proper precautions and keeping your account login private, your identity will be as safe as it can be.

[this is good, but can you relate it to small business owners somehow, just cause that's more of what they're looking for. it's definitely stuff that will be useful to that audience though, just needs to mention them a bit.]

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