Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Financial Safety!

Guest blog post submitted by:
Rebecca Binns, Financial Literacy Peer Educator

When it comes to being financially secure, fiscal caution is often overlooked. People get so caught up with making and saving money that they fail to make an effort to protect their money. However, fear not! As it turns out, being financially safe takes minimal effort.

The key to protecting your private information and finances is to simply take the time to keep yourself aware of your situation. In an era ruled by speed, deadlines, and instant communication, it’s no wonder that we rush through our daily routines. In an attempt to cut down even further on the time it takes to complete tasks, we make assumptions. We assume that the website we’re purchasing from is safe. We assume that we have been billed correctly. We assume that receipts are just trash. We go through with our assumption-based actions and move on. Seconds and minutes can be saved by skimming through these actions. After all, we are a species that not only enjoys, but relies on patterns and consistency. If we’ve already been billed correctly, why would that change?

Unfortunately, humans and machines are not infallible. Errors occur, and mistakes happen. Assumptions cannot always be relied upon. Therefore, make time for the little things. Do be careful about where you decide to put your credit card information. There is an easy way to tell when a web page is a safe and secure place to reveal your private information. Safe websites will begin with https://. That “s” means that there is an added encryption layer to the site to protect traffic—meaning your information will probably not get leaked. Additionally, check the bottom of your receipts before throwing them away. Most of the time, your credit card number will be replaced with X’s (save the last four digits). However, this is not always the case. Check to see whether or not your full number has been printed off to avoid throwing an invitation to your bank account in the nearest public trash can.

Pay attention to the mail and e-mails you receive from your bank, cell phone providers, utilities companies, etc. Sure, most of the time it is an annoying promotion or a seemingly unnecessary billing statement. Seems like a good reason to automatically head to the trash can or reach for the delete button. But, it is crucial that we pay attention to these billing statements. If an error is made, we only have 60 days to absolve it. After 60 days, we could be held responsible for the faulty bill, regardless of how much we actually owe. Additionally, creditors are required to tell you when they are making a change to your initial agreement. Check to see if the information you are receiving includes a policy change notification. If it does, and you do not like the new terms, you have the right to opt out. This means that you will close your account and pay off the remaining balance within 5 years under your original terms.

These simple things are easy and practical ways to avoid becoming the next victim of identity theft, or succumbing to a payment plan that you did not want. Take a couple minutes out of your daily routines to pay attention to these details. Replace assumptions with knowledge. Make the time to protect you and your money.

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