How to Get Fiscally Fit for the New Year

4 January 2016

Every January, gyms and fitness clubs are flooded with new members eager to make good on their New Year’s resolutions to get in better shape. They come through the doors with different motivations, from changing to a healthier lifestyle to finally getting into those skinny jeans.

Maintaining good physical heath is more a marathon than a sprint, requiring sustainable lifestyle changes rather than quick fixes. Similarly, the only way to ensure your financial health is to develop habits that will eventually make looking after your accounts second nature. Plus, the same way your body’s muscles need exercise to stay strong, regularly exercising your fiscal muscles can help keep your pecuniary skills sharp while bolstering your defense against identity theft, credit fraud and other types of financial injury.

Here are three “exercises” you can do to improve your fiscal fitness in 2016:

  • Check your bank statements: It can be easy to dismiss bank statements by assuming you already know their contents. If you have become a victim of credit fraud, however, your statement could be the first place you spot fraudulent charges. By noticing these errors right away, you have the best chance to freeze your account and dispute the charges. Now, not only can you check your statements when they are sent to you every month, but most banks allow you to log in and check them online as frequently as you like.
  • Keep your cards safe: Now more than ever, people are concerned with the security of their personal information on the internet. However, financial information can still be stolen the old-fashioned way, through physical credit card theft. Be sure to always keep your credit or debit card securely in your wallet when it is not being used. Even then, be especially mindful of your wallet or purse when you find yourself in crowded areas such as concerts or sports stadiums, as pickpockets could use the jostling of the crowd as cover. To be safe, don’t carry any cards or documents containing personal information with you if you don’t need them. Social Insurance cards, birth certificates and passports are best left safely at home.
  • Use a dedicated credit card for shopping online: As convenient as online shopping is for consumers, it also opens them up to a new array of possible ways their financial information could be compromised. From digital data breaches and hacking attempts to malware and unsecured internet connections, these security lapses can take place both on the retailers’ end of the transaction as well as the consumer’s. One way to mitigate the damage of these risks is to have a specific credit card you use exclusively when making purchases on the web. That way, if any of your ecommerce accounts are compromised, identity thieves will only be able to gain access to one of your lines of credit. Not only will this keep your other credit information safe, but it will make it easier to freeze fraudsters out of your account when you know they only have access to one.

Making the above exercises a part of your regular routine in the new year will put you well on your way to achieving peak fiscal fitness. However, just as injuries can sideline even the most well-trained athletes, there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of identity theft. For those moments when the unexpected occurs, credit monitoring companies have your back. Their identity theft protection services can help detect certain activity on your credit report that could indicate fraud, notifying you so that you can take action to protect your identity.