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Finances in 55 Seconds: Spot Check Financial Accounts

One of the ways you can keep on top of your finances, and help you catch identity fraud a little bit faster, is to do a spot check of your your financial accounts. This is about more than checking your account statement once a month. With online banking [3] providing you with ability to monitor savings, checking and credit card accounts daily, you can keep up with what is happening with your account.

You don’t have to check your accounts daily, but if you have 55 seconds every week, you can do a spot check of your financial accounts, making sure that everything is at it should be. And, if you do spot irregularities, you can start having them fixed sooner.

  1. List your online financial accounts and make sure you locate their passwords: Before you begin, quickly list out the financial accounts you want to check, and know where the passwords are. I keep mine in a little notebook in a safe place. Others keep them in a password protected document on the computer. Get that information together and sit at the computer. (19 seconds)
  2. Go through your list, visiting each web site: Log in and skim the recent transactions for irregularities. If you see irregularities, note them down quickly and continue. (36 seconds)

It’s pretty straightforward. Once you are done with your spot check, you can go back and further investigate the irregularities. When you find irregularities, fixing them will take much more than 55 seconds. But you will be warned about them, and able to take action. If you notice a charge from a company that you are not familiar with, or in a location that you haven’t been to, it is time to take action.

If the issue is a mistake made at the merchant (the grocery store once double charged my debit card), you can point out the problem and show your receipt. Take it up with the merchant to get your refund. If that doesn’t work, and you used a credit card, you can contact the credit card issuer, who can sometimes help you get your money back.

What to Do if Your Identity is Stolen

If you notice a fraudulent charge on your account, you should contact the bank or the credit issuer. Let them know which transaction is in question. In the case of your bank account, you may not be able to get the money back. But you can stop it from happening again. In the case of the credit card, you should be able to get your money back, and get a new card/account issued.

After you have notified the bank, and set that process in motion, you should notify the authorities. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much they can do, but the fact that you notified the authorities will bolster your case of identity fraud in the event that things become difficult to resolve, or if the incident results in a lower credit score. Get a copy of the police report. You should also report the identity fraud to the FTC by filing a report [4].

When you notice these irregularities in your financial accounts, you should check your credit report [5]. Perhaps this is an indication that your identity has been used to open fraudulent accounts and take out loans. You are entitled to a free report from each of the three credit bureaus every year by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com [6]. It is also possible to get all three of your credit reports for between $45 and $60.