Take smart precautions to avoid becoming a victim this holiday season
With the holidays well on their way, many people are already purchasing gifts, decorations, food, and other goods for various celebrations of the season. While all the extra shopping is good for the economy, it’s also a potential boon for identity thieves—and it doesn’t help that most people are heavily distracted by conflicting feelings of stress and excitement that the holidays so often bring.
While calamities like fraud and identity theft could easily put a damper on your holiday spirits, following a few safe shopping strategies can greatly reduce the chance of their occurrence, thus protecting your finances and letting you buy with confidence.
1. Watch out for fraudulent emails
If you’ve received any unsolicited emails from retailers, credit card companies, or banks asking for personal or financial information, don’t reply. If you think the email is genuine, look up the business’s information online and request that you connect over the phone. If the email claims to be from your credit card company, call the number on the back of your card to determine whether or not they’ve sent the email.
It’s important to avoid using the phone number or email address contained within the original email to contact the business, as it could easily be a fraudulent number run by scammers.
2. Avoid using debit cards
Unlike credit cards, debit cards pull your own money directly from your bank account— which means it can often be incredibly difficult to get the money back if fraud occurs. Instead of swiping your debit card, consider making most or all your holiday purchases on a credit card, as credit card companies almost always offer a full refund for any fraudulent charges reported within 90 days. Plus, depending on your credit card company, using your card for big holiday purchases can also help you accumulate serious reward points.
3. Don’t make purchases on public Wi-Fi
While it’s tempting to buy holiday gifts while sitting at your local Starbucks, you are better off waiting till you get home to make your purchases (or perhaps using a smartphone not connected to Wi-Fi instead).
Unfortunately, entering personal information like your address, date of birth, and credit card number on a public Wi-Fi network is akin to handing a printed copy of your information to everyone within a block’s radius.
4. Avoid sharing potential password hints on social media
Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be great ways to share bits your life with friends and family. However, they could be exposing you to a greater chance of identity theft, especially if you’re using passwords based off basic personal information. If you’re not careful, a potential thief could discover the names and birthdays of your pets, parents, children, and grandparents, as well as your favorite colors, hometown, and educational background (all possible account security question answers), simply by spending five minutes on your Facebook profile.
To keep yourself safe, tackle the problem from both ends. Change passwords to random combinations of numbers and letters (or at the very least, words and numbers that aren’t obvious) to make them harder to guess, and set your social media accounts to private so that potential identity thieves have little personal information to go off of when trying to gain access to your accounts.
5. Keep up-to-date on account statements
Since you’ll likely be making a higher volume of purchases around the holidays, it’s even more important that you check your credit card and bank account statements on a regular basis. While most people often wait till the end of the month to review accounts, it might be a better to do so on a weekly basis, at least until the season is over. Many scammers begin stealing from credit card accounts in small amounts, hoping that card owners won’t notice—so being proactive can often help consumers discover small fraudulent transactions and take action before the problem gets worse.
Depending on who you ask, shopping is either the best or worst part of the holiday season. But whether you love or hate it, it’s important to make sure you’re safe while doing it. Simply taking steps like not shopping on public Wi-Fi, using credit cards instead of debit cards, and creating strong passwords can make a world of difference and help you avoid serious headaches this holiday season.
To learn more about holiday shopping safety (and other ways to protect your family this holiday season) contact Avante Insurance for a free consultation.