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8 steps to financial safety

By Marcie Geffner · Bankrate.com
Monday, March 12, 2012
Posted: 11 am ET

Consumers need to be concerned about the safety and security of their financial transactions in today's increasingly complex banking environment.

That's why the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, has issued a bulletin to help consumers add an extra layer of protection to their personal finances, according to spokeswoman Gail Cunningham.

"These steps will move consumers into a much safer place financially," Cunningham said in a statement. "They are easy to implement and will provide another level of much-needed financial protection."

Here are the steps:

1. Don't post personal information on social media websites. Even the smallest bit of data or casual comment can give thieves what they need to cause personal and financial havoc.

2. Beware of phishing. Learn how to spot fraudulent email messages even when they're cleverly designed to appear authentic. Crooks can make such communications look very realistic through pirated company logos and website addresses that mirror those of real companies, organizations and government agencies.

3. Be suspicious of email messages that ask for personal information or money, even if the message appears to be from someone you know or do business with. Any message that makes such a request could be a scam.

4. When you make purchases online, use a credit card, not debit card. Credit cards offer consumers more protection against losses due to fraud.

5. Know your rights. Get familiar with the Fair Credit Protection Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act and Fair Credit Billing Act. More information can be found at the Federal Trade Commission website, FTC.gov.

6. Guard against identity theft. Don't carry your Social Security number in your wallet. Review your credit report annually, and report any suspicious entries to the credit bureau.

7. Review your monthly banking and credit card statements and notify the financial institution as soon as possible if you discover any unauthorized transactions. Online access can help you review your statements more frequently.

8. Use direct deposit for all payments. If that's not an option, consider a post office box or locked mailbox. Theft of your U.S. mail can expose you to financial fraud.

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff.

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