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Monday, April 20, 2015

How do I know if I'm a victim of fraud?

Read your financial statements

Banks and credit card providers will usually send their customers a detailed statement of financial activity once per month, covering payments and credits made within the past 4 weeks. Financial institutions that offer online banking or account management make it even easier for customers to view their financial history whenever they want, from anywhere with internet access. Despite this, as a nation we’re embarrassingly bad at keeping track of our balances.

A shocking 20 percent of us fail to check financial statements when they land on the doormat each month, and an estimated 80 percent are unable to accurately estimate their current balance to a figure within a £50 range. Any fraudulent activity made via a current account, savings account, or a credit or debit card will show on a monthly statement, so it’s vital to keep track of incomings and outgoings to ensure you know when something looks out of place.

Set up misuse alerts

If you use a credit card from a well respected bank, you may have noticed that you’ve been contacted by their fraud team in the past as a transaction had been flagged as being potentially fraudulent. Banks are often good at protecting their customers, but there are times when they fail in their responsibilities, and Sainsburys hit the headlines recently for approving an unusual £9000 transaction on a customer card that was the result of fraudulent activity.

It’s important not to rely on banks solely to protect your finances. Instead, take things into your own hands. Identity protection services allow users to set up misuse alerts, which sends an email or text message to the account holder should a questionable transaction - or a credit application - be made. This process is much more thorough, and allows users to quickly log in to their online account to see details of the transaction and take appropriate action.

Check your credit rating

If you apply for credit and are refused based on a poor credit history, despite always having kept up with past payments, you may have been the target of fraudsters. Any junk mail that you toss in the bin can be picked up by criminals, and if this mail contains personal details including name and address, it’s actually very easy for fraudsters to apply for credit in your name. So easy, in fact, that it’s estimated that 40 percent of us have been refused credit after falling prey to thieves.

You have a legal right to access your credit information, but keep in mind there can be a nominal fee for doing so. In spite of this, it’s important to check your credit rating regularly to ensure there are no unfair defaults on your file, which could affect your score. Experts recommend checking your credit rating once per year, but there are no penalties for checking more frequently, and this won’t show up in reports to potential lenders.

About the author: Harry Price is a full time writer and artist living in a small coastal village on the south coast.   He loves marathon running and his 3 dogs are the best training buddies ever!

Images: 1. Geralt/Pixabay; US-PD; 2. Author owned and licensed