Memorial Day weekend was a busy one for me, with calls from banks and clients investigating and asking about potential fraud.

  • First I got a call from someone at Citibank asking about some checks that were presented for large sums on a client’s account. They wanted to know if they were valid because they suspected fraud. It turned out the checks were legitimate, but it was a wake up call. I was glad the bank was paying attention.
  • Another call came in from Citibank about a MasterCard with some questionable charges. I contacted my client and it turned out that the charges were legitimate, which was a relief.
  • An acquaintance said that his investment account had been hacked just recently, and whoever did it had requested a new debit card. They had his Social Security number, his login, everything. They even changed his address on file to an abandoned house in New Jersey! He was able to freeze his credit on his own, but I followed up by telling him to call the police and warn the IRS ahead of time that his identity had been compromised.
  • Yours truly was also affected by fraud during my vacation in France. An unauthorized expense was charged against my debit card. Thankfully, they flagged it as fraud and didn’t pay it. I had to give up my debit card and get a new one. My bank is a very small bank, and unfortunately they have yet to phase in chip cards. This meant that all of my purchases in Europe were less secure because they were swiped — so I guess it’s really true that chip cards are more secure.

We have to be careful… scammers are smart (especially in Europe!). Here are some concrete steps you can take to protect yourself and your family:

  • Keep an eye on your credit score.
  • Make sure all your contact information is up to date.
  • Monitor your checking account and your credit cards.
  • Don’t send usernames and passwords in the same email.
  • Change all your passwords frequently using password generators and managers like LastPass.
  • Don’t answer security questions with the right answers! Many of the questions ask about information that is readily available to the public and can be easily found by criminals.
  • Don’t take quizzes on Facebook! They steal your information.
  • Get help if you need it!

It’s not our fault that we are good human beings who trust in the goodness of other human beings. That’s the way it should be, and that is what is in store for us in the future (if you believe Star Trek). If we’re ever going to get there, though, we need to fight for it everyday in little ways, like the ones I listed above.

You just can’t be too careful. You have to be proactive — or have someone that’s proactive for you.