Are you protecting yourself?

Personal finances have become increasingly complex, yet hardly a day goes by that doesn’t involve a financial transaction. Realizing that there are those eager to separate consumers from their money and destroy their financial reputation makes financial protection take on a new level of importance.

In recognition of National Consumer Protection Week 2012, a coordinated consumer education campaign encouraging consumers to take full advantage of their rights, taking place March 4 to March 10, MMI and the NFCC challenge consumers to add a layer of security to their financial future by putting the following do-it-yourself protection tips in place:

  • Be wary of what you post on social media sites. Even the smallest bit of data or casual comment on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, can provide thieves with enough information to wreck havoc – both personally and financially.
  • Beware of phishing. Learn what to look for in order to verify that an email is authentic, as crooks can make such communications appear very realistic through logos and Web addresses that mirror legitimate businesses and organizations.
  • Assume it's a scam. If an email or offer sounds too good to be true, suspect that it's a scam – especially if it's requesting money or personal information. Never give out personal financial information through email, even if it’s to a trusted source. Always assume that a potential hacker or identity thief is more technologically savvy than you are.
  • Use your credit card. When purchasing something online, make the payment with a credit card instead of a debit card, if possible. Credit cards generally provide more security against fraud. Review the fine print on statements from any financial institution you do business with to determine how much purchase protection you are offered in the event of theft or fraud.
  • Know your rights. Become familiar with consumer rights by reviewing the Fair Credit Protection Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Credit Billing Act, each available through the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Keep a close eye on your credit report. Guard against identity theft by obtaining a free copy of your credit report and reviewing it for anything that may look suspicious or questionable.
  • Read your credit card statements – carefully. Open and examine credit card statements for unauthorized transactions. If your financial institution offers online access to accounts, log in and review your statements and transactions on a regular basis.
  • Opt for direct deposit. Request direct deposit for all checks. If this option is not available to you, consider obtaining a post office box or locked mailbox.

It’s important to remember that even when faced with considerable financial stress, you shouldn't overlook the importance of financial protection. You should remain knowledgeable of your rights, and aware of potentially harmful situations. There is always legitimate help available through non-profit credit counseling agencies, such as MMI. If you need help reviewing your statements or paying off debts, contact one of our counselors today.

Money Management International is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. The NFCC is the nation’s largest and longest serving national nonprofit credit counseling organization. NFCC Members annually help over three million consumers through close to 800 community-based offices nationwide.

Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.