Simple steps lead to financial protection

National Consumer Protection Week ideal time to add security to personal finances

From Lutheran Social Services

Personal finances have become increasingly complex and hardly a day goes by that doesn’t involve a financial decision.  Realizing that there are scammers eager to separate consumers from their money or steal their information gives consumer protection a new importance.

From debt “settlement” and foreclosure “rescue” scams to high-tech spyware to plain old fraud, most consumers are at risk to run into these schemes and need to have good information on how to prevent fraud, and report it if it happens.

In recognition of National Consumer Protection Week March 4-10, LSS Financial Counseling Service challenges consumers to add a layer of security to their financial future by putting the following do-it-yourself protection tips in place:

• Use caution when using social media sites, as even small bits of identity or financial data can provide thieves with information to intercept your safety and finances;

• Beware of “phishing.”  Learn what to look for to verify that an e-mail is authentic, as crooks can make such communications appear very realistic with logos and web addresses that mirror the actual ones. When logging into financial sites, be sure the browser address reads “https” (not just http) for a secure site; and never click on links found in your e-mails;

• When making purchases, especially online, make the payment with a credit card instead of a debit card, as credit cards provide more security against fraud;

• Guard against ID theft by getting and reviewing your free credit reports once every year from www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Minnesota residents have the option to place a free “security freeze” on their credit reports if theft has happened;

• Report any financial fraud or scam attempts to the regulators who can stop the criminals: Minnesota Attorney General hotline at 651-296-3353 or nationally toll-free at Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 855-411-2370.

“These steps will move consumers into a much safer place financially,” said Mary McKeague, a certified financial counselor for LSS Financial Counseling Service. “They are easy to implement, and will provide another level of much-needed financial protection.”

-LSS Financial Counseling Service provides free one-to-one budget and debt counseling. For more information, to meet with a counselor, or to schedule a workshop, call 888-577-2227 or visit www.lssmn.org/debt.

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