|Weak PINs, habits increase risk of financial fraud|
How people choose their ATM and debit card personal identification numbers could predict how easily their accounts may be struck by fraud, according to a recent security study. That’s one reason why PULSE, a debit/ATM network, recognizes ATM & Debit Card Safety Awareness Month each June.
“It’s no secret that weak PINs such as a birthday or repeating or sequential numbers contribute to card fraud,” says Eric Lillard, director of Fraud Operations at PULSE. He cites a recent study by the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory in West Cambridge, U.K., showing that one out of every 11 wallets could contain cards with easily discovered PINs.
PULSE recommends that financial institutions help fight fraud by blacklisting the most easily guessed PINs and discouraging the use of birthdays, which are frequently found elsewhere in a stolen wallet, such as on a driver’s license.
“While financial institutions continue to combat card fraud and identity theft by investing in fraud mitigation, consumers can have a significant and direct impact on protecting their accounts,” Lillard says. “ATM & Debit Card Safety Awareness Month is a great time to change those PINs and take other steps to guard financial information and reduce the risk of becoming a victim of fraud.”
In 2011, PULSE processed more than 3.8 billion debit transactions, 16% more than in the previous year. As debit use continues to grow as a preferred payment method, so does the need to remain ever vigilant about possible debit card fraud.
About one in four cases of identity and financial fraud in 2011 involved debit or credit cards, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. In addition, a Javelin Strategy & Research study found that one in 20 U.S. adults experienced an unauthorized card transaction during the past 12 months.
By following these tips, consumers can reduce their risks, while still realizing the benefits of debit cards and ATMs, as well as social media and smartphones:
• Monitor your financial account statements.
Many experts recommend reviewing accounts online daily so that any suspicious activity is spotted quickly. Switch from postal delivery of statements to online access or ensure that mailed statements are sent to locked boxes and not left available to fraudsters.
• Protect your wallet, purse, and PIN.
Carry only what you need and avoid carrying items with private information such as your Social Security number. Don’t share your PIN with anyone. That means don’t write it down and don’t give it to a clerk or anyone else to enter for you.
• Be extra alert at ATMs.
Don’t use an ATM if it is in an unlit or hidden area. Block the keypad while entering your PIN so you can’t be observed. If an ATM looks phony or has a suspicious card reader that is loose or not part of the main body of the machine, do not use it.
• Protect your online shopping.
Update computer antivirus software, anti-spyware, and firewalls. New attacks come frequently, and your software provider will frequently send updates to stop them. Use only secure sites and network connections when shopping online.
• Protect personal information online.
Limit social media access to friends only and don’t “friend” people you don’t know. Fraudsters use personal information such as birth dates, family and pet names, high schools, and birth cities to “verify” your identity.
• Guard unauthorized use of mobile phones.
Keep smartphone operating systems up-to-date. Use a password to gain access to your phone. Install apps that will enable remote deletion of your phone’s data if the phone or other device is lost or stolen.
• Keep your financial house up-to-date.
Follow your financial institution’s guidance on closing accounts, especially if you are a victim of fraud. Review your credit report annually (free by logging on to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 877-322-8228, and free anytime if you are a victim of identity theft).
[This article was posted on June 11, 2012, on the website of ABA Banking Journal, www.ababj.com.]
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