Keep track of your finances

Published 10:51 pm Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Recently, a number of victims of fraud came forward after realizing that money had been withdrawn from their accounts at automated teller machines in California — and some of them had never even been to California.

The thieves withdrew hundreds of dollars from each victim’s account. At least 42 victims in Suffolk have been reported so far.

All the victims have one thing in common — they bought gas using a debit card at a certain station in Suffolk.

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Unfortunately, financial fraud can happen to practically anyone. Thieves and scammers will stop at nothing — from using sophisticated technology to simply digging through your trash — to obtain your personal information they can use to steal your money or get credit in your name. They don’t care if you have only $20 in your account left to steal. If it’s free money, they’ll take it.

But while nobody is immune to the threat of financial fraud, those who are careful with their assets and pay close attention to their finances have the best chance to avoid becoming a victim. Many of the recent victims caught the fraud because they were paying close attention to their bank statements. The extra effort doesn’t take long, and it’s not difficult to figure out. There’s no excuse for allowing the criminals easy access to your money.

Here are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau to avoid fraud:

4Check your credit report frequently.

4Check your bank accounts via your online banking system on a daily basis. Ensure that all recent activity is yours. Report anything suspicious to your bank immediately.

4Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.

4Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.

Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.

Be alert for bills that do not arrive on time, denials of credit for no apparent reason or calls and letters about purchases you did not make.