Each year, thousands of people have their information, money or both stolen while shopping. A 2020 survey from credit reporting company Experian found that nearly a quarter of people reported this happening to them during the holidays. As we enter the peak holiday shopping season, it is important to protect yourself and avoid becoming the victim of fraud or theft. Taking precautions now can ensure a happy and healthy holiday season – for both you and your wallet.
When shopping online –
- Protect yourself online – Regularly update your passwords to protect yourself on sites where you may be using your credit card information. Make sure your network is secure and that you have anti-virus software up-to-date on your computer. Avoid online shopping on your phone while away from home where these security features may not be active.
- Review websites carefully – Look for indicators like a return policy, customer service contact information, and detailed product information. Google the site or check reviews on third-party pages to verify it is legitimate. Seeing a Better Business Bureau seal is a great sign, but check BBB.org as well to confirm.
- Don’t give away more information than needed – If any site asks for information like your social security number or account numbers, don’t take the bait.
- Watch what you click – If you are getting texts or emails about orders you may have placed, try manually inputting the information as opposed to clicking on links. And be careful about clicking on ads while shopping as well, especially if the site hasn’t been vetted as described above. You could be opening yourself up to potential exposure for hackers or fraudsters.
When shopping in person –
- Keep your personal items close – Pickpocketing is a big issue in crowded shopping malls and similar spots. Make sure your wallet is secure, and try not to carry too much with you just in case.
- Be wary of ATMs – Make sure you use machines in trusted locations, and cover the pin pad when entering your pin information.
No matter where you shop –
- Check your credit and bank statements – Look for any unusual activity or charges you did not make.
- Get your mail often and review all items – Even things that look like junk might be the first clue that someone has accessed your information. Give all items a quick look before recycling.
- Report fraud immediately – The faster you alert your credit card company or bank that someone has your information, the sooner you can reverse any fraudulent charges and prevent future issues.
For more useful tips, check out these suggestions from the FBI.
Holiday shopping and gift giving are a fun part of this season. It is well worth taking these extra steps to protect yourself and your finances. Wishing you and your family a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.