Fraud and identity theft can ruin your credit score, create a massive headache, and negatively affect your overall financial health. 

Rather than trying to clean up the mess after the fact, it is important to focus on prevention. Keep reading to learn more about how to prevent fraud and keep all your financial accounts safe.


Practice ATM Safety

Always be aware of your surroundings when you are at an ATM, especially when entering your PIN or withdrawing large sums of cash from your account. Card skimmers or false façades may be used to fraudulently obtain your financial information, to use or sell it. Similarly, another common source of theft through skimmers is at the gas pump.

Look out for signs that the card reader has been tampered with, such as tape, glue, or scratches. The card reader could have been replaced with a counterfeit device, in which case it may seem loose. In some cases, your PIN may be recorded by a small camera located nearby or on the machine.

If you think you may have been a victim of card skimming, report your suspicions to the police as well as the business where your card information may have been stolen, and contact your financial institution to replace your credit or debit card.


Beware of Scams

There are a multitude of ways that hackers and scammers can obtain your bank information either fraudulently or by gaining your trust. Phone call scams, phishing scams, and even social media cons are all common ways of attempting to gain access to your account information.

For example, a phone call may come from a source pretending to be the IRS, an email appearing to be from your financial institution may contain a cloaked link leading to a fake website, or a fake social media account may appear to be a loved one asking you for money. 

Never give out your personal information, such as your social security number, online or over the phone, to anyone you do not know. Inspect all links that you receive via email thoroughly, especially if the email comes unexpectedly or claims that you owe money.

These scams play on people’s emotions and attempt to create perceived vulnerabilities such as making you think that a loved one is in distress or threatening you with negative consequences such as going to jail or having a past-due bill sent to collections.


Safe Digital Banking

There are several safe practices for online banking that will prevent fraud while protecting your information and your money.

When receiving and sending money online, only use known and trusted websites and apps like Pay a Person (P2P), PayPal, Venmo, etc., that are verified and secure. These brands are often backed up via pass-through FDIC insurance and protected by SSL certificates and encryption.

Never send money to anyone that you don’t know, and always verify the amount and the sender before you initiate a financial transaction online. 

Create strong passwords, protect all your electronic devices with a passcode or biometric recognition, and keep your contact information up to date. Never share your passwords with anyone you don’t trust, and use a unique password for each financial institution or be prepared to change all of your passwords in the event of a data breach.


Protect Your Banking Information

When it comes to your old bank cards, bank statements, or any other documentation that contains your personal information, it is important to dispose of it safely. Always shred financial documents whenever possible and cut up unused debit and credit cards before throwing them away. 

In addition, be sure to protect these items whenever they are on your person, and never leave your wallet, cell phone, or purse unattended in a vehicle, shopping cart, or other places where they could be easily stolen.


What to Do if You Become a Victim

In the unfortunate event that you do become a victim of personal or financial identity theft or fraud, there are a number of important steps you can take to stop the criminals in their tracks and protect your information from further attack.

Report any instances of identity theft or fraud to your local police department whenever possible to obtain a police report. You will also want to place a credit freeze on your files with all three credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

If your identity was also stolen alongside your banking information, contact the FTC at or by phone at 1.877.438.4338 to set up a recovery plan and receive an Identity Theft Report. This report can help you remove fraudulent activity from your credit reports and other financial institutions.

Be sure to take advantage of every security feature offered by your financial institution and notify them immediately if you feel that your personal information has been compromised.


Prevent Fraud & Keep Your Accounts Secure

In addition to knowing how to prevent fraud and taking the steps above, University Credit Union offers a variety of features and services that you can use to ensure your financial security.


Keep your account secure