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Free credit reports are available to consumers on an annual basis at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. Beware of sites other than www.annualcreditreport.com because those sites generally do not offer free credit reports. Why does your report matter? Because you need to check and verify that you recognize all the accounts and your information has not been, (1) confused with someone else or (2) stolen by an identity thief. You also need to confirm your credit report is properly updated to reflect payments you make.
Checking your credit is a more timely concern than ever before. Memorial Day weekend represents the start of our summer family travel season, and as you use credit and debit cards at gas stations, bars, restaurants, and shops outside of your local area, it’s especially important to practice safe habits to make sure your credit is not compromised.
First, make sure to pull your credit report at least once per year and perform weekly checks of your online checking and savings accounts and credit card statements to confirm you recognize all transactions.
Second, carefully examine card machines at retail establishments. As reported by the Consumerist this week, card skimmers continue to pose a threat – https://consumerist.com/2016/05/26/card-skimmers-found-on-walmart-self-checkout-terminals-in-two-states/. According to the article:
“[T]he skimmers used in these instances are made to overlay the existing payment terminals so that they not only go undetected, but also collect both the information from the swiped card and any data entered on the PIN pad. A skimmer of this quality will cost the wannabe ID thief at least $200, but that’s nothing compared to the amount of money that could be drained from victims’ accounts in a short period of time.”
And third, avoid leaving your credit or debit cards to hold a tab at bars and restaurants. Pay with cash or make sure to close out your tab immediately to avoid your card being out of your possession for a longer than necessary period of time.
Keeping these tips in mind will help ensure a less stressful return to reality after your summer vacation!