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How to use automated alerts to protect yourself from fraud

Transaction alerts can help protect against fraud
March 28, 2017

By Pam Leibfried

Two years ago this month, I wrote about being part of the Anthem Blue Cross customer data breach and discussed steps I was taking to protect my identity, including signing on for Anthem’s free credit monitoring and fraud alerts. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about fraud, and have taken other actions to protect my accounts and step up the level at which I personally monitor my accounts on an ongoing basis.

Securing financial accounts

Use smart passwords 

A key to reducing the risk that your accounts will be hacked is having strong, unique passwords for each account. If you’re like me and you struggle to remember IDs and passwords, consider using a password management app. You’ll only have to remember one password (the one for your password app) and the app will remember the others for you.

Make it easy for the bank to contact you

Make sure the contact information on file for all of your financial accounts includes your email address and mobile phone number. Be sure to give permission to be contacted by phone, email, and text. That way, you can be contacted more quickly in case their fraud monitoring systems detect fraud on your account.

Pro tip for Alliant members: It only takes a minute to add your contact information in Alliant Online Banking. Just click the Settings tab and select Personal Information. From there, you can confirm or correct your mailing address and add phone numbers and email addresses. Please note that you’ll receive an email from us with instructions on how to confirm your email address so we can use that method to contact you.

Opt in to optional authentication steps 

If your financial institution offers any security measures in addition to a login and password, signing up for them adds a second hurdle for fraudsters to get over if they try to hack your account.

  • My phone has fingerprint ID, and I have my Alliant Mobile Banking App set up to use my fingerprint to log in.
  • Register your devices if your bank offers that option. For example, I’ve registered my laptop, iPad and mobile phone in Alliant Online Banking. If I sign in with one of those devices, my login is simplified, but when I sign in on any other, non-registered device, I have to take additional steps.

Pro tip for Alliant members: Registering your devices in Alliant Online Banking only takes a few minutes, and helps us protect your account from being accessed by someone other than you. Just click the Settings tab and select Access & Security. On the Access and Security page, click Manage Registered Devices and follow the instructions to add your browser and device.

Banking transaction alerts

Monitoring your savings, checking and credit card accounts, which used to be time-consuming and a pain in the neck, is now a very simple and easy process. Just sign up for automated alerts that let you know whenever someone makes a transaction on your account.

Signing up only takes a few minutes of your time, and after that, you’re on autopilot. You’ll receive an alert when there is a specific activity on your account.

  • If you made the transaction, you ignore or delete the notification.
  • If you didn’t make the transaction, you contact your financial institution immediately to alert them to freeze your account before more fraud is committed.

Customize your transaction alerts

Many banks and credit unions that offer transaction alerts also allow you to customize the alerts so you can choose which transactions you want to be notified about. For example, when I set up my transaction alerts in Alliant Online Banking, I opted to receive alerts only when funds are withdrawn from my Alliant accounts, not when funds are deposited into them.

In Alliant Online Banking, you can customize the alerts you receive in several ways: 

  • Sign up to receive transaction alerts when your balance changes, when checks clear, when money is deposited or withdrawn from an account, or when your debit card is used.
  • Opt in to receive account summary emails, stop-payment expiration notifications or NSF alerts when you have non-sufficient funds to cover a transaction.
  • Set dollar limits for your alerts so only transactions over a specific amount will trigger a notification. This feature is especially useful for joint checking accounts. For example, you can set it up to only get alerts for transactions over $15 so you won’t receive a notification every time your partner spends $8 buying lunch with his or her debit card.

Pro tip for Alliant members: Setting Alerts in Alliant Online Banking is easy. From the main Account Summary page, click “Manage Alerts.” Then just click on a green + button to add the alerts you want to receive. On the page for that alert, you’ll click on the checkbox next to the account(s)_you want tracked and set your dollar limit, if any. Then you’re set!  

Visa purchase alerts

Visa offers an alert service for some Visa cards, and it is available for all three of Alliant’s credit cards, so I’ve enrolled my Alliant Visa Platinum Rewards card in the Visa purchase alerts system. I get an alert every time more than $30 is charged to my credit card. That way, I don’t get an alert every time I use my card to buy gas or takeout, but I am still able to keep a close eye on charges made to my account. The sign-up only took a few minutes, and now I worry much less about credit card fraud.

Being part of the Anthem breach has certainly brought home to me the sad reality that in today’s world, we need to be vigilant in protecting ourselves from fraud. But taking the steps above has given me great peace of mind that I’m doing everything I can to ensure that if I do somehow become a victim of fraud, I’ll see it right away and be able to stop it before a lot of damage is done.

Pam Leibfried is a marketing content specialist whose love of words led to a writing and editing career. After a brief stint teaching English, she transitioned to corporate communications and spent 20 years at The Nielsen Company before joining Alliant’s content development team. Early in her work life, Pam’s friend Matt explained the benefits of a 401(k) and her dad encouraged her to start a Roth IRA. Their good counsel prompted her to prioritize retirement savings, which just might enable her to retire early so she can read more and live out the slogan on her fave T-shirt:  “I have a retirement plan: I plan on quilting.”