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Sather Financial Group

120 E Constitution St
Victoria, TX 77901

(361) 570-1800



 

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Protecting Your Identity

Like so many Americans, I spent Labor Day laboring.

This began with a quick trip to Home Depot to pick up supplies. I found my five items, swiped my credit card and was out the door. The next day, we learned Home Depot's data systems had been breached, compromising sensitive information about its customers.

Home Depot is certainly not alone. Recently, Target, eBay and JP Morgan have had similar troubles. It is a perplexing situation for consumers as the world relies more and more on technology. Although modern tech offers tremendous conveniences, it also puts us at risk. Pragmatically, it is not a matter of "if" your info will be hacked but rather "when."

Given this, here are some things consumers can do.

Obviously, closely monitor your statements. If you are not scrutinizing every transaction in a timely manner, then no one else will.

If you find a questionable transaction on your credit card, bring it to the card issuer's attention within 30 days. This should limit your liability to just $50. Once you notify the credit card issuer of your concerns, they will suspend questionable transactions until authenticity can be verified.

This brings up an important distinction between a credit card and a debit card.

A credit card sends a statement to review with a grace period before payment is due and interest costs accrue. A debit card, on the other hand, automatically deducts cash from your account. There is no grace period. Should someone gain access to your debit card information they can potentially wipe out your account.

No grace period puts a strain on you until the matter is straightened out. This is especially true if you have other bills to pay or auto-drafts coming out of your account. One small issue can quickly snowball. For this reason, I don't use a debit card.

Limit the number of open accounts you have. If you have inactive accounts no longer in use, send written correspondence requesting that the account in question be closed. Limiting the number of accounts you have makes it much easier to stay on top of things.

I may be the last person on the planet that still writes out physical checks. In doing so, my bank accounts are set up so there are zero auto-drafts or other ways to electronically transfer money out without my physical input. Although this is not foolproof, it slows down cyber-thieves and forces greater scrutiny.

When I get my checks back, I review them to make sure the dollar amount, person paid, endorsement and signature all match what was intended.

In our office, we are very slow to embrace new technology. New tech and gadgets have a high "cool" factor, but they are often at risk for partially tested security features. By going "old tech" or "no tech," we reduce many of the risks.

Dave Sather is a Victoria certified financial planner and owner of Sather Financial Group. His column, Money Matters, publishes every other week.

Originally published September 16 2014, Victoria Advocate