3 Dangerous Habits You Must Stop Now



Do you write your PIN on your debit card? Have you ever left your smartphone unlocked? Would you throw your bank statements in the trash without shredding them first? Of course not. But nearly half the people worldwide do engage in at least one risky behavior that increases their odds of financial fraud. Here are three surprising habits you need to change so you won’t become a victim.


Don’t swipe your debit card in untrustworthy places. Watch out for ATMs at convenience stores, hotels, bus stations, and other places that aren’t banks. Some of them may be fake. What’s more, thieves may install hard-to-see skimmers on these ATMs to record your PIN and account information. Most business owners don’t monitor the machines and aren’t trained to spot this kind of tampering.

This is a growing problem, as, according to the credit-scoring firm FICO, the number of skimmers on nonbank ATMs during the first four months of 2015 was up 317 percent compared to the same period in 2014. The good news is your risk of being skimmed may be lower if your debit or credit card has an EMV or smart chip. 


Don’t give your ZIP code to a cashier. Some stores note the name on your credit card so they can submit it along with your ZIP code to data brokers. That’s all those brokers need to find tons of information about you for the retailer’s tracking and marketing. What’s more, data brokers can sell information about you to various companies. That’s how data breaches at businesses you never use could still put you at risk of identity theft. 


Don’t become a target for scammers.  It’s not always about how you handle your money. You may be upping your risk of fraud when you sort your mail, watch TV, or talk on the phone. Avoid these actions to stay safer at home.

  • Don’t listen to sales pitches from callers or others you don’t know.

  • Don’t leave documents with personal information lying around. Shred all your junk mail, old bills, financial statements, and canceled checks.

  • Don’t attend a free seminar if it comes with a free meal or hotel stay.

  • Don’t enter your name in drawings.

  • Don’t call the 800 number mentioned in TV ads to “learn more.”


Sidestep sneaky spammer traps and still save money. Your web search turned up dozens of sites offering free stuff, but that may mean you’re one click away from a tidal wave of spam flooding your inbox. Some freebie sites are just a way to get your email address or other information, so hucksters can spam you back to the Stone Age. This doesn’t mean you must give up freebies forever. Instead, boost your spam defense system and take smarter paths to freebies.


Build your anti-spam fortress. Spammers constantly change their tactics, so you’ll need a variety of precautions to keep spam from sneaking in.

  • Create an email address you only use for freebies.

  • Find out if your mail program includes a tool to block or filter spam. If not, try anti-spam software.

  • If you get spam email, don’t respond to it. Instead, check your email Help files to learn how to block the sender’s domain name — that part of the email address after the @ sign.

  • Turn on the email setting to block images. Spammers often hide programs inside images that will notify them of live addresses. You can still choose to view images embedded in emails you decide are safe.

  • Be picky about freebie sites that require your email address. Check out comments and reviews on sites like TheKrazyCouponLady.com, MoneySavingMom.com, or other bargain sites. Then decide which freebie sites make providing an email address worthwhile.

  • Before signing up for freebies, read the privacy policy to find out how your email address will be used. Also, consider reading the disclosure policy, user agreement, or terms of use, if available. These notices may tell you how to opt out of mailing lists, advertisements, or other annoyances from the site or its advertisers. Take every opportunity to opt out.


Become a savvy site selector. Three kinds of sites can help you find the real free stuff online while avoiding spam and scams.

  • Manufacturers. Start with the websites for products you already use. If you don’t find offers at first, check back frequently. Promotions change and supplies run out quickly. When you do find free samples, you may hit the jackpot and score valuable coupons, as well. Experts say sites like L’Oreal, Gillette, or Proctor & Gamble are good choices. Before you sign up for freebies, just make sure the URL in the address bar includes the name of either the company or the product.

  • Freebie aggregators. These sites, like HeyItsFree.net and Hunt4Freebies.com find the freebies for you.

  • Preferred retailers. Visit the websites for your favorite retailers like Walmart, Sephora, or Target. Search for “free samples” or check their customer loyalty programs. 


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  • FC&A Staff Writer