With more of our financial transactions easily available on-line to view, it cannot be overstated how important it is to monitor bank statements frequently. Today, we are going to discuss why.
My recent bout of identity theft was pretty brutal. Transactions for services and merchants that I never use appeared. Accounts that were thought to have been closed re-spawned and continued to be compromised. My best buddies in the last few weeks have been credit card issuers, a few select merchants, and the police. Every time one of my accounts was breached we chatted, almost daily, from mid-October up until last week. I even got a call from an Executive from one of the merchants due to the severity of the issue that I raised.
While there was strong evidence pointing to a contractor we had in our home that stole these account numbers along with a gift card, the lesson was that we should all be vigilant with monitoring our bank statements. A few select merchants’ poor business practices, coupled with a financial system that is not as secure as we’d all like to think, led to a potent injection of fraud.
Aggregating bank statements into one view
Unless you want to go “old school” and only receive paper statements, which provides its own opportunity for identity theft, registering for on-line account access is a great idea. 1) You get to see your transactions, which helps you with budgeting; 2) You get to pay on-line; 3) You can easily dispute any activity that you deem suspicious. But, let’s take it a step further. If you want to get a complete financial picture, check all of your bank statements at once, and identify easily any odd spending, you need an account aggregation tool.
In my Lessons series, available at the top of this web page, I highlight one tool out there that I use, Personal Capital. This tool is free, tracks your spending, and shows your investments as well. But, what was really helpful for me this past month by using this tool was instantly identifying the fraud that was happening on several of my accounts. Just a quick glance on the dashboard which showed my outstanding debts was all of the indication I needed. Cards that I NEVER or RARELY used showed balances in the $ thousands. [Insert expletive].
Fortunately, removing the fraudulent activity was easy. However, what was disturbing was that it seemed that cards that were supposedly replaced were still being hacked or otherwise abused. Because I now check my statements daily, I am easily able to see and stop fraud from hitting my accounts. Unfortunately, as consumers, we are all being stuck with the bill which is why we should all keep close watch on our account activity.