How to protect your finances from those closest to you
It’s a tough pill to swallow – your money is gone, and your own family or loved one is to blame. This particularly hurtful form of fraud can ruin your relationship and your financial security all in one fell swoop. Yet every day, relatives and spouses use trust for financial gain. In fact, a recent survey by Identity Theft Resources Center found that 46% of victims who have previously experienced identity theft said they felt they couldn’t trust family and 55% said they had trust issues with friends.
Although we all want to trust the people we love, it’s important to set financial boundaries to make sure your personal information stays safe. The following tips can help keep you from falling victim to fraud inflicted by loved ones and friends.
Keep your financial information secure
The first step to protecting yourself from fraud is to keep your bank information and checkbooks in a safe, secure place. If you believe any family member or friend has access to your financial information who shouldn’t, including bank statements, accounts, debit cards, checks or credit cards, contact your bank immediately about getting new cards and putting alerts on your accounts to notify you of irregular spending or activity.
Monitor your accounts
In addition, it’s important to check your balances frequently to monitor activity and keep an eye on your accounts. How quickly you report fraud to your bank could affect whether you are responsible for all or a portion of the fraudulent checks or charges. It’s also important to open and review statements immediately, whether you’re receiving them digitally or via hard copy.
You should not share your PIN, online banking login or password with anyone. If you do, and they commit financial fraud, you may ultimately be responsible for any fraudulent charges or withdrawals because you provided them access to your accounts.
Have open communication with loved ones
Money issues come up in every relationship but being secretive about using a relative or spouse’s money is especially hurtful and destructive. This form of fraud can include anything from spouses securing lines of credit using their partner’s social security numbers without them knowing to relatives who are supposed to get groceries or prescriptions and instead use the payment information to clean out a checking account.
One way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you is to have meetings once a month with your significant other or any other person close to you who has access to your financial information. This will help you be transparent with each other and have a conversation about finances and which accounts are being used by both of you.
Another way to protect your finances is to set alerts through your online banking tools and apps to help monitor your account activity. You can set alerts that notify you every time a transaction is made or when money is withdrawn. You can also customize the alerts to only notify you when a purchase over a specified dollar amount is made.
It’s also a good practice to monitor your credit report monthly to review each of your open and active accounts.
Be aware of outsiders, too
It’s not just your loved ones who can steal from you. Identity thieves and scammers are still prevalent and their schemes include scam calls, emails and social media click-bait. Whether it’s someone calling you out of the blue claiming to be the neighbor’s son who needs money or a supposed friend or relative telling you they’re in a pinch, never give someone money over the phone, internet or email. Always meet and talk in person.
Don’t make it easy
For most people, family is a top priority. And it’s easy to let money get in the middle of those important relationships. Protect yourself and your loved ones by keeping a close eye on your finances, setting boundaries, having important conversations about the topic and knowing what tools are available to protect your money. The harder you make it for people to get access to your finances, the harder it will be to fall victim to financial fraud.
Steven Thornburg is SVP, Senior Regional Delivery Manger, Colorado, Personal Banking for UMB Bank. He can be reached at Steven.Thornburg@umb.com.