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Detect Financial Fraud Using Personal Capital

James Prister has been using Personal Capital for over a year. Recently, upon logging into his Personal Capital app for a routine check-in on his money, he noticed a few transactions on his Cash Flow Analyzer tool that didn’t look familiar. It turns out they were fraudulent transactions on his wife’s American Express card. Using Personal Capital, he was able to uncover fraud himself.

We first heard this story when he reached out to our CEO, Bill, via LinkedIn to say thank you.  “I felt it was necessary,” James told us.  “How often do people reach out to say thank you? After I spotted my fraud with Personal Capital, I was able to immediately get it taken care of with American Express.”

Our editorial team decided to sit down with James to get the full scoop about how he interacts with our software, and how exactly the routine interaction with Personal Capital led him to detect credit card fraud early.

Q: Tell us about yourself. 

I’m a Millennial from Chicago, Illinois. I grew up there, and I was the middle child in my family. I’m back there now as a married man after a stint away – at a liberal arts college in Michigan and then in the suburbs. I work as an Account Executive for CBS Media, so I live an “Always on the Go” Lifestyle.

In terms of my personality, I’m diligent and an extremely analytical person. I’m also a family man and values-driven. Some of my friends even call me an “old soul.”

Q: Tell us a little about your financial picture. 

My wife and I live well but are also in saving mode right now; we’re looking to buy our first home soon. We’ve got money in banking, investing and retirement accounts. I’m responsible for all of our family finances, and I’m diligent about checking our accounts and monitoring our progress toward our financial goals.

That’s why I like Personal Capital; I love checking in to see where our 401k’s are, how much we have spent on our monthly credit cards, etc…. I came across Personal Capital about a year ago when I was looking for a way to be more organized in monitoring our financial picture.

Q: How do You Use Personal Capital?

First, I have linked our financial accounts from all of the various institutions that I utilize. I’ve got seven accounts – which is about to be 8 (I just opened up a new credit card – you’ve got to save up some miles!).

I check Personal Capital three to four times a week.  I primarily use web, although occasionally on weekends, I use it on my iPad. Living the life of a busy Chicago business person, I don’t have time to check in with all of the separate institutions daily.

The Dashboard is my favorite tool.  In one view, you see all accounts in one place, which is why it is conducive with my busy lifestyle.

Q: How would you describe the benefits of Personal Capital for someone like you:

Given my lifestyle, being in sales, I don’t have time to go through my financial accounts line by line every day. Personal Capital allows me to quickly browse through all of my financial information in one place.

I primarily use the software to keep everything in check and make sure nothing is out of whack. I enjoy watching the values grow. I’m a planner, so it’s a great tool for watching our spending habits and monitoring the increases to retirement accounts.

Q: Tell us about how a normal interaction led you to uncover financial fraud. 

I started by opening the Personal Capital homepage. And right when you do, it’s all right there: 401k, savings, checking, loans, investments and credit cards. And there in plain view, one of my credit card balances seemed higher than what I was anticipating. It was actually my wife’s card, so on a hunch, I clicked on it. Lo and behold, there were three big charges from Florida. Neither of us had been there, so I thought: that’s strange.  I immediately called my wife and then American Express, who was able to immediately help me out.

As I mentioned, Personal Capital has been a very helpful tool for me to keep track of my financial life in a convenient way.  Uncovering financial fraud was icing on the cake, but really highlights to me that there are many benefits – even if they’re unexpected! – to staying informed about your finances.

Combat Financial Fraud With Technology

Financial fraud occurs all the time, most commonly in the form of illegal credit card usage. Take steps to protect your finances by methodically checking your statements every month at least. Any time you go out of state, give your credit card company a call and tell them about your whereabouts. Sometimes, credit card companies go over board and lock you out from usage as well.

Staying on top of your finances not only helps to properly allocate your net worth for optimal returns based on your risk profile, tracking your finances can also help prevent fraud as in James Prister’s case.

Join Personal Capital and keep fraudsters at bay

Image credit: James Prister

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

Catha Mullen is passionate about helping people make healthier financial decisions, which is why she joined Personal Capital. Personal Capital helps people live better financial lives by providing technology-enabled advisory services, in addition to free financial software. She's got an MBA from Stanford and AB from Princeton.
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This year, my top financial priority is:

Building my emergency fund
Paying off high-interest debt
Budgeting better
Saving for a short-term goal, like a vacation or new car
Increasing my investment contributions
Maintaining status quo - I’ve got this under control

Make moves toward your money goals with Personal Capital’s free financial tools.