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5 Identity Fraud Tips from the Expert

, by Rob Kaufman

There's a new victim of Internet and Identity Fraud every 2 seconds. Much of that fraud is committed by criminals who access consumer information and accounts from online sources.

So how do we avoid becoming victims ourselves? It's best to ask the experts - and that's exactly what we did. We sat down with FICO's fraud expert, Gabriel Hopkins, and listened carefully as he gave us his 5 top tips on how to secure your accounts online.

5 Top Tips to Securing Your Accounts Online

1. Take a moment to be suspicious

Fraudsters rely on that knee-jerk sense of urgency to get people to react. The more fear they elicit, the faster their victims will take their desired actions. For instance, they'll send professional-looking emails to make you think your bank is requesting you take action immediately (commonly called "Phishing"). Know that your bank never typically sends emails asking you to take some sort of secure action - let alone, to take it immediately. If you're even 1% suspicious, call your bank and ask them if they sent you the email. Both you, and your bank, will be glad you did.

2. If in doubt, hang up

Criminals count on our natural "politeness" to stay on the telephone. Even if we're not interested in what they have to say or are suspicious in any way, we feel bad hanging up on them. Don't feel bad or guilty - they could be a scammer. If it actually is your bank calling you and you do hang up, they'll understand you're looking after yourself and will find another way to contact you. Remember, if someone calls your home; ensure the line is clear once you hang up. Fraudsters sometimes tend to hang on and keep the line open to see who you call or find another way to trick you. Pick up the phone and make sure there's a dial tone. If they called your landline or home phone, you can use your mobile phone to call your own number. If it rings, the line is clear and the suspect is gone.

3. Report anything suspicious

Whether you receive a strange phone call from your bank, an email that just doesn't feel "right" or a piece of bank mail that seems out of the ordinary, let your bank know immediately. Yes, it might be a false alarm... but it might not be. If you're concerned, banks are concerned. They want to know what's going on in the world of identity thieves. The sooner they know about potential new scams, the sooner they can act to protect you and all their other customers.

4. Keep track of your accounts

Statistics show that people have ten or more online accounts, so this might feel like a daunting task... at first. However, it's crucial that you keep track and monitor the activity of your accounts, especially those that are financial in nature. Do research on some of the tools that banks and other providers (i.e. your mobile phone company) offer their customers to help track account activity. Some may offer "push" messages or specific alerts that warn you activity is taking place within your account. Once you do your research, pick, choose and then use the tools you think would work best for you.

5. Be password savvy

Research shows that 70% of consumers struggle to maintain and monitor their different accounts and associated passwords. However, think about the risks associated with your passwords - once a fraudster gets hold of one, your account can be compromised. We're not just talking about financial accounts either. We're also referring to social media accounts thieves can hijack and then find ways to use your details and compromise your online security. Two important points to remember: be sure to set strong passwords and do not use the same passwords across accounts. Ignoring these points can make it much easier for fraudsters to get into your accounts and do as they please.

Identity Fraud is a serious problem... and getting worse. Show how myFICO members have dealt with the problem (and helped prevent it) at myFICO forum. Also, check out our identity theft section to educate yourself.

Rob Kaufman

Rob is a writer... of blogs, books and business. His financial investment experience combined with a long background in marketing credit protection services provides a source of information that helps fill the gaps on one's journey toward financial well-being. His goal is simple: The more people he can help, the better.