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Trick or Treat? How to Avoid Fraud

It seems like each month a different company experiences a data breach. Criminals continue to get more resourceful and their capabilities are always expanding, which is why its more important than ever to remain constantly vigilant against these threats. While no single action guarantees you wont become a victim, there are many steps you can take to greatly reduce your risk:

  • Review Your Credit Reports —These can be obtained for free, every 12 months, at www.annualcreditreport.com and includes summaries from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies. Further leverage this service by spreading out the reports over a full calendar year by choosing a different agencys report every 4 months.
  • Only Bring What You Need —As opposed to keeping your wallet filled with all of your credit and debit cards, consider instead only carrying the specific cards that you’ll need for any given trip. This way, if your wallet or purse is lost or stolen, the damage is mitigated and easier to manage. In that same vein, keep a record of all your accounts safe at home, so if something does go missing, you have all the pertinent information you’ll need to contact your bank.
  • Protect Your Social Security Number —This number is the single most important piece of personal identification and the most difficult to recover if stolen. Unlike a credit card, your Social Security number cant be closed. Armed with this and other varying personal information, a criminal can do anything you can, including but not limited to: applying for government benefits, filing your taxes for a refund, opening bank accounts, and taking out loans.
  • Use A Shredder —Never throw anything with personal information in the trash. Thieves will often go through trash bins and dumpsters to find any discarded materials with identifying information. Be proactive against this threat by shredding all documents, preferably using a cross-cut shredder for maximum protection.
  • Reduce Your Exposure —To stop telemarking calls, register your number at www.donotcall.gov, to remove your name from most e-mail and mailing lists, register at www.dmachoice.org, and to remove your name from marketing lists prepared by the reporting agencies, use www.optoutprescreen.com.
  • Safeguard Your Computer and Mobile Devices —Ensure your computers firewall and antivirus software is up-to-date and make sure to run periodic scans which will notify you of any existing or potential threats. Also, be mindful of how much personal information you store on your computer or mobile device in case it is lost, stolen, or a hacker or virus gains access to your files.
  • Set Alerts —These days, the majority of banks let you customize your preferences in terms of monitoring and alerts. Consider having your bank notify you, via phone or e-mail, of any purchase that exceeds a certain threshold. In addition, before going on vacation, let your bank know where youll be traveling, otherwise you risk having your card suspended.
  • Monitor Your Accounts —Periodically checking your accounts online is an easy way to guard against fraudulent activity. In addition, certain online services can import and aggregate your banking information for you so that you can review everything at once. These services can also alert you to suspicious activity, for an extra layer of protection.
  • Maintain A Healthy Sense Of Skepticism — “Stranger Danger” is not just a proverb for children, but an adage that all consumers should follow. There are countless scams out there, whether online, in the mail, or through the phone, and its always best to be circumspect of anything that seems too good to be true. If youre unsure, research first.

While monitoring your accounts is an important aspect of your finances, there are other critical planning issues to consider. Please contact Hefren-Tillotson for further details regarding our MASTERPLAN process and how it can help you accomplish your financial objectives.


This report is based on data obtained from sources we believe to be reliable. Hefren-Tillotson does not, nor any other party, guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this report or make any warranties regarding results obtained from its usage. All opinions and estimates included in this report constitute the firms judgement as of the date of this report and are subject to change without notice. This report is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation to buy or sell the securities herein mentioned.

Investment Advisory Team

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Hefren.com is sponsored by Hefren-Tillotson, Meticulous Wealth Management Since 1948. Hefren-Tillotson is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennslvania and has locations in Downtown Pittsburgh, Butler, Greensburg, Wexford and Southpointe in the South Hills. Our financial advisors and investment advisors offer full service, personalized financial planning and retirement planning. Our MASTERPLAN approach can help you plan for the future with a focus on asset management and portfolio management. If you’re looking for time-tested financial advice in the Pittsburgh area, Hefren-Tillotson financial planners are here to help. Securities offered by Hefren-Tillotson, Inc., member of FINRA and SIPC.