Now, I mean watching your money, not counting it. Counting it is for pleasure. Watching it is for vigilance.
This task is right up there with brushing your teeth and making your bed, and it happens in the morning before the rush of business begins. You don’t brush your teeth or make your bed? O.k., we all had different mothers, but watch your money every morning even if you don’t make your bed.
Here’s what to do:
Go online to your credit card accounts, one by one. If you don’t have online access to your money, get it now. Review all transactions since yesterday. It takes 20 seconds to see if there are any unknown charges. If you don’t recognize a transaction, check your calendar to remind you of your activities that day – where you were, what you did, and what you might have charged. If you still don’t know, call the 800 number immediately and ask customer service to identify the source of the charge. If it is real, that’s enough. If it is not real, report the transaction and have your account frozen before you look for your card to see if it is missing. Some banks will hold a temporary freeze for a few days; others will cancel your account and immediately send you a new card. A new card is a nuisance insofar as many of your online accounts that are set up on “auto-pay” list your now-gone number and each will have to be replaced with the new number. By the way, except for recurring auto-pay that pays your bills to your credit card each month, do not leave any of your credit card information on any ecommerce website. You know it is only a matter of time before someone gets it.
Next: go online to your bank account(s). Review each one for transactions which you don’t remember. These should be glaring. Again, check your calendar about what you did that day and what check you might have written, or what electronic funds transfer you initiated. Examine your checkbook – can you find it? Are any checks missing? If you suspect the checkbook has been stolen, report the theft and follow bank procedures to cancel any missing checks. The bank may insist on closing your account and issuing you new checks.
Finally, review your online accounts – phone and cable companies’ statements, especially if the amount is not what you usually pay. Review the charges, ask questions, speak with customer support.
On the first day of every quarter, change your passwords on every financial and ecommerce account on which the online user can make a transaction. The longer you have them, the less secure they are. There are consequences: someone can ultimately hack in to your account and access your passwords and bank account numbers and set up a new identity and password and function as if he were you. The consequences of identity theft in time, effort and money are overwhelming in comparison to spending two whole minutes each morning asking: “ It’s 9:00 a.m. – do I know where my money is?”
Too much trouble, you say? I mean, really, you spend two whole minutes brushing your teeth every morning, don’t you?