June 19, 2024 · Credit, Investment, Savings, Security

How to Monitor Your Financial Accounts Daily, Monthly and Annually to Guard Against Fraud

Fraud can happen at any time to anyone, and it doesn’t matter how informed, well-educated or experienced someone is; crooks just have too many methods for getting money from innocent people.

Financial accounts can be hacked, a scammer can trick you into sending them money, credit cards or credit card details an be stolen, paper checks can be taken from mailboxes, a thief can take your identity to buy things or intercept and steal income tax refunds—the list of potential crimes is long and new types of fraud continually evolve to take advantage of consumers.

The first step to stopping fraud is being aware that it exists, detecting that inappropriate and unauthorized actions may be, or are, occurring in your accounts. Keeping a close watch on your financial accounts can provide an early warning of illegal activity, and many financial companies have easy, helpful tools to provide either almost immediate notifications of account transactions or timed reports summarizing all account actions on a regular schedule such as every month.

Specifically, what sort of account monitoring can help manage scammers, identity thieves and other fraudsters?

First, set up real-time, daily, per occurrence or specific amount notifications for all your accounts that offer it

  • Find out whether your credit or debit card issuer can provide almost immediate notifications that any transaction has occurred, either by email, text message or both.
  • Also check if your bank, credit union, brokerage account provider and other financial institution offers real-time transaction messages, including payments, deposits and transfers.
  • Find out if you can set up other types of automatic notices for financial accounts, such as a daily summary of a checking or savings account balances or if an account drops below or rises above a set amount. Review notification options closely to select those that make you feel more secure.
  • Look for the option to have an account message triggered based on criteria you establish, such as messaging you every time an account withdrawal or deposit exceeds a certain amount, such as $5, $10, $100 or some other amount.

Next, check those monthly account statements thoroughly by looking at every transaction, one by one and line by line

  • There may be types of accounts that don’t provide reporting whenever an activity happens, instead they provide account summaries on a regular schedule, such as monthly.
  • For companies that offer them, review or download your monthly financial account reports for credit and debit cards, savings, checking, brokerage, individual retirement account, money market and other money-related accounts, and examine them rigorously for anything that looks suspicious, such as unauthorized withdrawals, duplicate or recurring charges, purchases you never made, activity coming from U.S. states or other countries where you shouldn’t have any financial activity, and anything else that seems unusual or that you can’t remember initiating.

Retrieve your comprehensive credit report at least annually and review it for fraud

Almost everyone has a personal credit history; an ongoing record of historical financial information created by your credit cards, financial accounts, loans, bill payments and, generally, almost any financial activity that can be directly associated with you. The three major national credit reporting companies (also known as agencies or bureaus) in the United StatesEquifax®, Experian™ and TransUnion LLCcontinuously collect this information to compile your credit report. The credit report could be considered a summary of your monetary activities that then gives you a financial reputation. Other businesses then pay the various credit bureaus so they can use this information to help determine if you are a potential customer for some of their goods and services, so having a generally positive credit report is very important.

According to U.S. law, consumers are entitled to obtain one free credit report annually from each of the top three credit reporting companies mentioned above. But the major credit agencies have now allowed more frequent free access to credit reports. On October 16, 2023, a Consumer Alert email from the United States’ government agency the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an FTC representative from the agency’s Division of Consumer and Business Education wrote that “The three national credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — have permanently extended a program that lets you check your credit report at each of the agencies once a week for free.”

To request a copy of a credit report, go online to annualcreditreport.com and follow its instructions to request a report, or call 1-877-322-8228. That site—and only that siteis authorized by the federal government to provide free credit reports. The annualcreditreport.com site will request sensitive personal information to identify and verify who you are, so it’s essential that you initiate all online security measures you have, such as a virtual private network (VPN) and password manager, before entering any confidential details.

After obtaining your credit report, examine it carefully for any indications of fraud and identity theft:

  • What are warning signs of fraudulent activity? Is there a history of activity with a company you don’t recognize? Or accounts you seem to have that are active but you don’t remember ever opening? Are there charges you don’t remember making, such as an item you didn’t actually purchase? Is a credit card company, auto dealership or other company making credit inquires on you, but you haven’t applied for credit or done any business with them? Are there credit card charges or other transactions from another country that you’ve never been to or shouldn’t be dealing with? Are there duplicate charges that shouldn’t be recurring?
  • Financial actions that you did not initiate or know about may be fraudulent activity and signs of identity theft. Any fraudulent actions you can identify will help when you report the identity theft to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and law enforcement agencies, such as the police.

What do you do if fraud is found?

If you recognize or suspect fraud on your accounts, then report to the company providing the account and other companies you do business with, get help, try to recover from it and attempt to prevent it from happening again. More specifically, you can:

  • Notify your credit union, bank, credit card provider, insurance carrier or other financial institution, and give them specific details, including dates, dollar amounts and other transaction information.
  • Consider notifying other companies providing regular services, such as cellphone and internet services, water-gas-electric utilities, pest control and lawn care.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP, 1-877-ID-THEFT, or online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The FTC also has a site that can help potential or actual scam victims Money Matters, to review. It also has a video on Why Report Fraud to learn how your report can help stop scammers.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice has a list of government agencies where different types of fraud can be reported.
  • Fraud can also be reported to state and local government authorities; for some states, fraudulent activities are reported to their attorney general’s office.
  • You also can contact your local consumer protection office for assistance.

Delta Community offers a monitoring service that may enhance security for your accounts, PrivacyGuard

If cybersecurity is a serious concern, then it may be helpful to look at investing in an identity monitoring plan to help keep your personal and credit information safe. Delta Community Credit Union and its subsidiary Members Insurance Advisors now offer their members identity protection plans from PrivacyGuard1. All PrivacyGuard plans offer comprehensive tools such as credit monitoring*, dark and public web monitoring* of your personal information, activity alerts, and access to fraud resolution experts.

Always be cautious and always call Delta Community immediately with any account concerns

  • If you think your Delta Community accounts have been compromised, immediately contact our Member Care Center via our toll-free number at 800-544-3328 with whatever details you have, including dates, amounts of money, email messages, email addresses, text messages, phone numbers and names.
  • Please remember that Delta Community will never call, text or email you to ask for your checking, savings, investment, ATM, debit or credit card account number or password, your telephone access (IVR) PIN, one-time passcode, or other confidential personal information.

Curious about managing money or protecting yourself and your family online?

For more information that may help you manage your finances and online security, look into the free Delta Community Financial Education Center webinars on a range of practical, “how to” topics that could potentially help save you money and enable you to better manage your income, financial assets and life. Please visit the Financial Education Center's Events & Seminars page to review and register for its monthly on-demand webinars.

The Credit Union’s blog has more information that could be educational and helpful:

1The benefits in PrivacyGuard are provided by Trilegiant Corporation.

*Click here to view important product benefit information and restrictions.