Going over financial statements is a necessary evil that is part of responsible personal finances. It can become tedious, however. Every month you probably have a good number of financial statements to pore over: savings account, checking account, auto loan and any number of credit card statements. And what about those periodic statements? Life insurance and cash value statements, retirement plan statements and stock portfolio statements. It can be very tempting to just file them away without really looking at them. But that would be a big mistake.
When something is wrong
One of the first clues that you may be an identity fraud victim usually shows up in the statements. An erroneous purchase appears on a credit card. Your checking account balance is lower than you thought it was. This is also why keeping track of your spending is such a good idea. You should record your spending, even on credit cards, so that when you look at your statements (you should be reconciling them – even credit card statements), you can recognize discrepancies. It doesn´t even hurt to have a good idea of what your retirement account and stock investments should be doing. When you notice major problems, it could be a mistake or it could be something more sinister. Either way, you should remedy the problem as quickly as possible.
Fixing the problem
When you notice a difference in your records from your financial statement, you should immediately double check. Then make a phone call. The sooner you make proper attempts to rectify the situation, the less liability you will incur. And it can prevent a mistake from really making a mess of your finances. After everything is straightened out over the phone, make a note of the conversation, what was accomplished and the date and time. Keep this information for your own records. Next, follow up the phone call in writing. If you have reported identity fraud or a bank mistake, write a letter detailing the problem and mentioning what was resolved in the phone call. Keep a copy of the letter for your own records and mail the other to your financial institution. You may have to place calls to the three major credit bureaus to report identity theft, and you should file a report with the authorities. For mistakes, check your account every day until the error is fixed. You can usually do this online. If you do not have online access to your account, call the institution after two or three days to verify that the problem is resolved.
You can use a financial ledger to keep track of your spending so that you know where the money is going, and so you can reconcile all of your accounts when the statements arrive. However, it can be much easier simply to use a personal finance computer program. I prefer to use a computer program because it is easy to enter the information, and it can help you reconcile your statements in a way that is quick and easy. The important thing, though, is to make sure that you look over your financial statements each month, and that you reconcile them to some record that you have.