Danger: A thief goes on a spending spree with your account. Protection: Scrutinize every statement, and report all suspicious charges.
Your Social Security number
Danger: Using your SSN and a bit of “social engineering,” a crook can take out loans, and even commit other crimes, in your name. Protection: Place fraud alerts on your credit reports. Refuse to give out your SSN as an ID.
Danger: Mom’s maiden name might be all a crook needs to open your bank’s vaults. Protection: Use an answer only you know.
Debit card number and PIN
Danger: With hidden devices at purchase or by hacking into retailers’ computers, scammers harvest and drain victims’ debit cards. Protection: “I never use my PIN unless I’m at a bank ATM,” says Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner, an IT research firm. Shopping with your debit? Say “credit” at checkout and sign, or use a signature-required debit card.
Bank passwords and log-ins
Danger: Your life savings evaporates in an instant, remotely, and with little trace. Protection: Never click on a link to your bank that arrives in your e-mail. Visit your bank online only by typing in the URL.