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7 Ways to protect yourself against ID and bank account fraud

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Money thieves have gotten smarter at electronically stealing funds from your financial institution. Using realistic-looking emails and phone-number IDs or stealing your login information, they swoop into your checking and savings accounts and swoop out with your cash.

Money-transfer Zelle estimates that its users lost $440 million to scammers in 2021. New account fraud cost consumers $8.8 billion in 2022, up 31% from the previous year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Don’t be among the millions of Americans who will lose billions of dollars this year. Learn more from Tropical Financial’s informative web page and these tips on how to minimize your risks:

Make it difficult to access your accounts. Scammers can hack shorter combinations of letters, numbers and special characters. Use passphrases you are likely to remember and hard to figure out like this example from Cybersecurity firm SANS: honey-bricks-bored-concise. Use a unique login for each account.

Bolster your login with two-factor authentication, also known as 2FA. Log in with an ID, a strong passphrase and a unique code sent to your phone or email. That third step provides an extra layer of security.

Keep your devices and connections secure. Avoid public computers or Wi-Fi networks for banking transactions. Hackers can easily compromise both and tap into your emails to read, reroute and alter your messages. Log into a website that uses a secure "https" and a padlock symbol in its address bar. For apps, enable biometric authentication such as fingerprint or face recognition so that someone who steals or finds your lost phone cannot access your accounts.

Regularly check your account balances and transactions. The sooner you discover fraud, the greater your legal protection. Immediately report unusual and unauthorized transactions to limit your liability. The FTC has an excellent guide on steps to take when your credit card or ATM/debit card is lost, stolen or used without permission. You can also set up alerts for large or unusual transactions to detect fraud when it happens.

Be suspicious of requests for money or financial information. When a friend, relative or colleague sends you a text, email or phone call for financial help that looks authentic in its details, first confirm that it is authentic. Financial institutions like Tropical Financial will never ask you for your complete Social Security numbers, account numbers, PINs, or one-time passcodes on your debit and credit cards. If you receive such a request by phone, email or text, immediately alert your institution.

Keep your apps and device software up to date. Hackers can exploit flaws in outdated programs to gain access to your accounts. Be sure to download mobile apps only from the company providing the financial service and only from legitimate sources, such as GooglePlay for Android devices and the App Store for Apple products. For extra protection, consider adding mobile security software to detect and prevent malicious apps or activities from infiltrating your device.

Monitor or freeze your credit records. Read our recent blog post on How to Spot Identity Theft on Your Credit Report. 

Get extra protection from Tropical Financial through its free service, Card Valet. With the app for Android and Apple devices, you can receive transaction alerts, limit spending on debit and credit cards, check account balances, and turn on and off credit cards. Visit our blog post for details on how to sign up.

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