While we all have an eye out for deals during the holiday season, predators are on the lookout for holiday steals. Help ensure your safety when shopping, both in stores and online, with these simple steps:
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card for online and mobile purchases. Credit cards from financial institutions like First Financial Credit Union usually provide more fraud protection than debit cards do.
- Change account passwords frequently, and keep them protected. Use a variety of lower- and uppercase letters, numbers, symbols and different words. Don’t use the same one across your email, bank, credit card and other online accounts (such as Amazon, Facebook, etc.).
- Log out after checking your accounts and making online purchases.
- Keep computers up to date on security and anti-virus software.
- Make purchases only from secure websites, usually ones with https:// in their Web address instead of http://. That “s” ensures extra protection, as information is encrypted, or scrambled, before it’s transmitted.
- Keep records of online orders and check your accounts frequently for unrecognized or suspicious activity.
- Avoid purchasing items over public Wi-Fi networks (say, in a coffee shop) when doing online banking. Use a secure connection from home or your workplace instead.
- Be wary of counterfeit goods. If the price sounds too good to be true, trust your gut and don’t buy the item.
- Be on guard against “porch poachers.” Monitor delivery dates and make sure someone is around your house to put your packages inside or grab them for safekeeping.
- If an online purchase isn’t shipped in a timely manner, you have the right to cancel the order and receive a refund, according to the Better Business Bureau.
Shopping in stores
- Don’t buy more than you can carry. If need be, ask a store clerk to help bring purchases to your car, bus stop or other mode of getting where you’re going.
- Put purchases in your car’s trunk or other spots that aren’t visible to potential thieves checking out the vehicle when you’re not around.
- Lock your car doors.
- To foil pickpockets, keep money and debit or credit cards close to your body, either inside your coat or purse, or in the front pocket of your pants.
- If you’re carrying cash, distribute it among a few pockets, so that you don’t have to pull out a big wad of bills when you make purchases.
- If you’re using plastic, wait until you’re ready to swipe the card before pulling it out. Holding it in your hand in anticipation gives thieves the chance to photograph the numbers or jot them down.
- When shopping with kids, make sure they each have your mobile phone number memorized or on their person. Decide on a family meeting spot in case you get separated.
- As you head out of a store, glance around for suspicious characters, and keep your keys in hand. If you’re getting in a car, lock the doors after you to avoid becoming a parking-lot robbery victim.
By keeping an eye peeled for predators and scams, you can be more assured of enjoying the holiday season safely.
Cait Klein, NerdWallet
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