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Lessons and stories from the front lines of fighting identity theft.


Shopping Secure This Holiday Season

Dec 02


With the busy holiday months looming, it’s no surprise that scammers, hucksters and identity thieves mark it as a red-letter time to try and capture your information while you’re busy trying to celebrate the season. Each year, their efforts take new forms as they gain access to new technology, all to further their attempts to make off with your personal data. Make sure you stay current and include these tips along with your normal safeguards to help keep your information secure while you trim trees, sing carols, and spend time with family and friends.

One of the biggest tasks on many lists is holiday shopping. With ever-increasing levels of consumer spending happening online, it’s no wonder that fraudsters and criminals target your online payment activity on days like Cyber Monday and throughout the shopping season. Doing all you can to keep your information in hand? Make sure you think about:

  • Only shopping on secured networks. Your secured, home network is usually much more secure than non-password protected public networks. Especially when you’re inputting your payment card information, make sure you’re surfing in a safe space.
  • Shopping secure sites and apps. When on the Web, confirm you see https in the URL address string, and see standard icons in the address bar. If you’re downloading shopping apps, confirm the app creator is a reputable business – and also the one you’re really intending to shop with. A recent flood of look-alike shopping apps infiltrated online app marketplaces from overseas just before the holidays, despite standard screening efforts.
  • Protections of credit card spending. When you shop online, credit cards carry standardized federal protections that significantly limit liability for any fraudulent charges that could occur.
  • Auto-updating your security permissions. Especially with the rise of mobile shopping, make sure you’re always running an up-to-date operating system version to keep up with security updates. When you select auto-update, these can be installed under certain conditions (like when your devices are locked, connected to WiFi, and charging) so you’ll always have confidence that your settings stay current.
  • Using a dedicated card for all online purchases. Isolating all your online activity to one card means you have less payment information going to all sites.

But shopping securely online is only half the battle when it comes to protecting your payment information while making holiday purchases. There’s likely at least one trip to a mall or shopping center in your future. How can you take extra steps to be secure when it’s open season for identity thieves? Consider these ideas to help foil fraud when you’re at the register:

  • Keep cards in view. Don’t let clerks disappear with your payment cards – transactions should happen in full view of both you and store surveillance systems.
  • Note whether you swipe or dip. With the transition to chip-and-PIN cards last year, payments in the new system are less susceptible to magnetic stripe fraud since a unique code is generated for each transaction. But some retailers still lag behind activating their new software even though the terminals have been installed. Knowing where you swiped versus dipped can help you track down incidents if fraud turns up later.
  • Stump shoulder surfers. With the change to chip-and-PIN terminals, new PIN keypads have been recessed and have their edges screened with rubber to help curb line of sight to your code. In crowded stores, stay aware of your surroundings and consider body-blocking views even further with your positioning or shopping bags.
  • Shop light. If your wallet becomes lost or stolen, you’ll be glad it didn’t contain all your cards and personal information. Take out items you don’t plan to use and won’t need for the trip and leave them secured at home.

Once the last gift has been unwrapped, you can breathe a sigh of relief – almost. Come the first of the year, it’s a great time to look over your financial information and credit card statements. Match them up with receipts and confirm that everything looks the way you expected. Then, consider checking your credit reports so you’re in the know on your whole credit picture at the start of another year.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.