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It’s important to keep your financial information secure. As you gain more options for where and how to manage your financial life, a potential identity thief has that many more places to find your personal info from your physical wallet, to your smartphone, to your online activity via laptop or tablet.

Select a category below to get started:

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Secure your passwords

It can be very difficult to manage the login information for all of your online accounts, but you still shouldn't have simple passwords or reuse the same ones for multiple websites. Instead, try using a password manager to ensure your credentials aren't easily stolen.

Defend against email and phone phishing

Phishing refers to a fraud where the perpetrators are trying to trick you into giving them your personal information, which they can then use to steal your money or even identity.

Sometimes, those attempting fraudulent activity will send you a link that, when clicked, will install malicious key logging software on your computer. Upon execution, the software will record all the login names and passwords you type and gain access to your personal financial information.

You can avoid or greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of phishing by using these simple precautionary measures:

  • Don't click on any links you're not sure about, until you verify their sources.
  • Don't divulge any sensitive information to anyone unless you have initiated the contact.
  • Don't email unencrypted personal financial information, even if you trust the recipient.
  • Never call the number or click on the link that suddenly pops up on your computer screen, especially if it claims that your computer has been infected with a virus.
  • Keep your antivirus and anti-malware programs updated.

Check your credit card account activity online regularly

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Credit card issuers proactively monitor cardholder account activity to spot potential signs of fraud before unauthorized transactions are processed — but you are the first line of defense in credit card safety. Establish online account access for all of your credit cards, and establish a unique password for each.

Designate at least one day out of the week to log in over a secure network to confirm you recognize all the activity related to the account. Establish email alerts to receive automated notifications of any credit card transaction that exceeds a specific amount.

What to keep in your wallet

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1. Cash

You likely use your credit or debit cards for most purchases, but it can be helpful to carry a bit of cash, too. You'll likely have to make the occasional cash purchase and it's good to be prepared so you don't get stuck trying to find an ATM.

2. Two Credit Cards

It can be wise to not only have your main credit card in your wallet, but also a spare one. You don't want to get caught by surprise if there's a technical issue with your main card, you reach your spending limit or a retailer doesn't accept that type of card. If you have more than two cards, you could leave the extras at home unless you plan to use one of them. If your wallet gets stolen, only having to report the theft of two cards can save you some time (and stress) compared to reporting many credit cards stolen.

3. Debit Card

Not only can you use your debit card to make purchases, but you can also use it to get cash at an ATM. If you need cash quickly, a debit card is the way to go — cash advances on your credit card typically charge higher fees.

But it's important to be aware that debit cards typically carry some financial risks not associated with credit cards, according to Business Insider. If unauthorized charges are reported within 60 days, you may be held liable up to $500. If the unauthorized charges are identified and reported after 60 days, your maximum loss is all the money the thief took from that account, and any other accounts linked to it.

4. A Form of Identification With Your Current Address

There are so many instances where you need official identification that it just makes sense to keep it in your wallet at all times. From driving to checking into medical appointments and beyond, you'll need your I.D. with you.

5. Emergency Contact Information

Keep a card in your wallet with your phone number (so if someone finds your lost wallet, they can call you). Also include contact information for friends or relatives who can help in an emergency. If you have severe allergies or medical conditions that medical personnel should know about, include that on the card as well. Carrying this information could save your life.

6. Insurance Cards

Don't leave home without your medical and auto insurance cards. You will absolutely need access to this information in the event of an emergency.

Try not to carry these items

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1. Social Security Card, Birth Certificate or Passport

Sometimes it's necessary to have these items with you — when you travel or have to show multiple forms of I.D. — but once you no longer need them, store them at home in a secure place. If someone takes these items, they may try to steal your identity.

2. A Spare Key to Your Home

Don't keep an I.D. with your address on it plus a spare key in your wallet together, because they make it easier to locate and break into your home. If you worry about losing your keys, it's much safer to leave a copy with a trusted friend or neighbor.

3. A List of Your Passwords

Don't make it easy for thieves to spend your money on retail sites, or worse, have access to your online banking accounts. If you must keep a written record of your passwords, keep it in a secure place and don't carry it with you.

4. Blank Checks

These also make it far too easy for someone to steal money from you. You can fill out a check in advance, but don't carry blank ones in your wallet.

Know your credit score

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Many people only find out that they've become a victim of identity theft after they have had a loan application rejected. But instead of waiting until it's too late, you can check your credit score regularly.

The Discover Credit Scorecard offers a free monthly credit score to everyone, not just to Discover cardmembers. This service also allows you to see your recent credit inquiries, payment history and credit utilization.

Scrutinize your bank and credit card statements

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There's no way to completely protect yourself against identity theft, but you never have to be responsible for paying for unauthorized purchases on your credit card.

The Fair Credit Billing Act states that credit card users have a maximum of $50 of liability in the case of fraud, but some card issuers like Discover have a $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee that ensures you will never pay for an unauthorized charge. To use this protection, you have to check your statements each month and report any suspicious activities.

Take advantage of free identity fraud monitoring

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Discover offers a free service that will monitor risky websites and alert cardmembers if their Social Security number is found. This service also lets the customer know if any new credit cards, mortgages, car loans or other accounts appear on their Experian® credit report, by monitoring it on a daily basis.

According to Laks Vasudevan, Discover's VP of Global Products & Solutions, "Consumers continue to worry about fraud and the sensitivity of their information online. At Discover, we're looking for features that keep consumers ahead" of potential fraudulent activity.

To learn more about this feature and to enable it, customers simply log in to their Discover card account.

Access the Freeze it® feature

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In the event that you lose your Discover card, or believe it could have been stolen, you can temporarily "freeze" your account to prevent new activity. If you later find the card, you can unfreeze it just as easily.

Discover's Freeze it® feature allows you to quickly prevent any new purchases, cash advances or balance transfers from being authorized on your account. If you chose only to deactivate your card, that would protect against unauthorized use of your card, yet would not protect you from online or phone transactions where the card isn't present. Discover makes using this benefit easy: You can freeze or unfreeze your account in seconds with Discover's mobile app, at the Discover website or by phone.

Strengthen your passwords

Consider enabling two-factor authentication that will keep your accounts safe even if your password is compromised. Two-factor authentication requires a one-time use code that's sent to your smartphone before anyone can log in to your account from a new device.

Never text your credit card number

Your daughter sends a text that she needs your credit card number to pay for the deposit on her senior class trip by noon today. Texting a credit card number to someone you know and trust seems harmless, but it's a major credit card safety violation that can have lasting repercussions.

As HuffPost explains, you lose control over any email or text message the moment you hit "send" — even if you verify that your Wi-Fi connection is secure, and use an encryption app to further secure the information you view and send on your mobile device. If the recipient's email is hacked or their mobile device is lost or stolen, your credit card information could be accessed in their "inbox" or "trash" folders, and used to make fraudulent purchases.

Dedicate one credit card for mobile use

Mobile wallet and stored-value apps that allow you to pay directly from your mobile device are convenient — but Credit.com reports that compromised apps can result in hundreds of fraudulent transactions that can take place in a matter of seconds. Designate one credit card to use digitally so you're able to spot suspicious activity right away, and quickly disable the card to prevent further fraud.

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.