With the rising popularity of online banking, mobile apps, and digital payment services like PayPal and Zelle, financial transactions are easier than ever. Bills can be paid online. Recurring payments can be automated. Funds can be transferred with just a click. The convenience of cashless commerce is welcome, but the reduction in physical exchanges can lull us to sleep when it comes to protecting ourselves against potential fraud. 

Financial fraud is nothing new. In fact, we probably hear the warnings so often that we hardly notice them anymore—and that can be a problem. In a Washington Post article detailing the vulnerability of credit card users, Kate Silver noted: “Last year, analytics firm FICO found there was a 10 percent increase in the United States in payment cards that were compromised at ATMs and merchant card readers—following a 70 percent rise in 2016.” Statistics like these point to the fact that while security measures are improving, enterprising criminals are stepping up their games as well. 

Keep a close eye on your cards.

Much has been written about security advances within the financial industry, and rightfully so. EMV chip technology and digital wallet services like Apple Pay and Android Pay are dramatic improvements that go a long way towards foiling information theft. But with all of the focus on innovation, old-school credit and debit card activity still leaves many of us at risk. Card skimmers, hardly more than an urban myth in 2002, have evolved from clunky contraptions to barely perceptible devices that scan and record sensitive card data. If we’re not careful, mundane tasks like buying gas or getting money from an ATM can put our financial information at risk.

Safety can be simple.

The good news, according to Silver, is that commonsense precautions can significantly increase financial protection. Shielding the keypad when entering a PIN, making ATM withdrawals on weekdays (when the machines are inspected on a daily basis) instead of weekends (when they’re not), and only using gas pumps with security cameras and security tape is just a few practical steps we can take to protect our financial data. While all of these steps reduce the chances of theft happening in the first place, credit unions are making impressive strides towards safeguarding their members if their information is compromised. 

Credit unions are stepping up account security.

With convenient tools like online banking and mobile apps, credit unions make it easy for members to monitor their account activity—an essential step for early detection of fraudulent activity. Many institutions are also lessening the risks associated with physical card transactions by offering a two-pronged approach to security. Since most debit cards and check cards are issued in partnership with VISA or MasterCard, the first protective measure consists of security enhancements like chip technology and a Zero Liability policy for fraudulent transactions. 

Avoiding financial fraud doesn’t have to be difficult. Implementing personal precautions and teaming up with a trustworthy credit union, like Great Meadow, are simple, yet effective ways to ensure maximum protection. Even if it requires us to take additional steps and exercise a little more caution than we’re used to, preventing fraud is always easier than recovering from it.