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When was the last time you opened and reviewed your banking and credit card statements?  Did you verify that all of the charges in your checking and credit accounts were accurate?  With security breaches like the Target episode from last December, which exposed the personal banking information of over 40 million consumers, large technological attacks are still a major issue for those of us who use credit and debt cards.

Security threats aren’t the only reason to review your bank statements frequently.  Have you ever learned that you have been paying an ongoing fee for a service that you never signed up for? Or maybe you learned that your checking account had a monthly fee you weren’t aware of until you opened one of your statements by mere chance?

If you’re like many people, you know the importance of reviewing your banking transactions regularly.  But the truth is, life is busy, paper statements are so last decade, and who really opens those emails that tell you your electronic statement is available?  Here’s the point: you want to review your accounts and protect your money, but it’s highly likely that you just don’t get around to doing so.

What is a girl to do?

Billguard, a new financial planning software - actually an app - may be your saving grace. The app aims to help busy consumers who don’t have time to look over their monthly statements identify fraudulent or questionable activity on their accounts.  You can save money while protecting your accounts.  If you’ve ever been overcharged, charged twice, or charged for something you didn’t buy, you know how important it can be to act on such charges quickly.

Even though Target has spent millions to provide affected clients with credit monitoring, financial planning software like Billguard can be so much more effective. With Billguards’s to-the-minute account monitoring, you’ll get an immediate notice of any dubious charges, before they can damage your credit. With credit monitoring, by the time something on your credit has changed due to fraudulent activity, most likely the damage has already been done. If you can catch issues before your credit is affected, it may help you avoid the sticky situation of reporting and repairing erroneous information on your credit report, cancelling accounts, and putting an identity theft alert on your credit report - which can lead to even more headaches if you apply for credit after an attack. This nifty app also offers other features such as budgeting and locating web coupons that match your specific spending patterns.

A word of caution - when you use financial planning software such as Billguard or even mint.com, you are essentially giving your precious financial data to a third party, which in itself is not without risk.  I love technology and use it daily in my work as a financial planner, but I also value some low-tech, old-fashioned financial strategies (I still love writing checks!).  In my opinion, reviewing your hard copy or electronic statements from your financial institution is the safest bet if you’re concerned about security.  On the other hand, we share our financial information daily, and every time we swipe our debit and credit cards, we take a risk of being exposed. I mean, who would have guessed that buying shampoo at Target could be so risky!

Here’s my suggestion: Whatever you do, adopt a strategy for reviewing your credit and banking statements at least monthly. It will not only help you avoid fraudulent and erroneous charges, but will also help you become more empowered about your finances. 

About the Author: Miranda Reiter is a certified financial planner and founder of She & Money Financial Planning. She helps women develop a game plan for financial success so that they can stop feeling broke, meet their goals, and live the life they truly deserve. Get her free audio training on debt elimination here.

 

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