In this report
Overview
At home
With your electronics
For your personal finances
Six ways to stay safer

For your personal finances

Last reviewed: June 2011
Woman using an ATM
Photo illustrations by Stephen Webster

Banking from a public computer

Keylogging malware that can capture account numbers, passwords, and other vital data is a risk that has been linked to use of open Wi-Fi connections and public computers such as those in hotel lobbies.

Using unfamiliar ATMs

Thieves have been known to put out-of-order signs on a legitimate ATM and set up nearby freestanding bogus ones that "skim" data from your card. ATMs located inside banks within view of surveillance cameras aren't risk-free, but they pose more challenges for crooks installing skimming equipment.

Two other important pieces of advice related to ATMs: Separate your PIN code from your ATM or debit card. Almost 1 in 10 people carry their code with the card, says ACI Worldwide, a payment systems company. And when typing your PIN into an ATM or card reader, use your free hand to shield the keypad from the view of hidden cameras or anyone nearby.

Dropping your guard at gas pumps

Card-skimming at gas stations is likely to increase during summer months, especially in vacation areas, so use cash or credit cards at the pumps if possible. If you must use a debit card, select the option to have the purchase processed as a credit-card transaction rather than typing in your PIN.

Ignoring your credit or debit cards

Monitor your accounts at least weekly to spot and report unauthorized transactions as soon as possible. Use services offered by your bank or card issuer that can help protect you, such as an e-mail or text alert if a transaction occurs for more than a certain amount.

Abandoning your receipts

Many transactions, such as filling up your tank and making a debit-card withdrawal, leave a paper trail. Don't toss away receipts in the ATM lobby or leave them at the gas pump. Hold on to them until your transactions have cleared your bank account to make sure the totals match. Then shred the receipts if they have any information a thief might use.

Trashing your bills

Thieves harvest sensitive data from account statements and other financial documents placed in the trash and use them for ID theft, says Inspector Michael Romano of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Shred them first.