How to Protect Yourself Against Holiday Theft and Fraud

BY ANDY KAY

Honest people aren’t the only ones shopping during the holiday season; thieves are out shopping too. Each year around this time I get calls from so many clients who have become victims of theft and fraud between Thanksgiving and New Years. So here are my top 10 tips to avoid theft and fraud during the frenzy of shopping…

1.     Take Only Your Necessities with You. Leave all but one or two of your credit cards at home. If per chance you would be pick pocketed, you want to cut your losses as best you can. This ‘shopping lightly’ also means that you should leave documents like your social security card and birth certificates at home.

2.     Use Credit Cards Instead of Debit Cards.  The biggest difference is that there is a shorter window to dispute charges and discover fraud when using Debit Cards. Credit cards typically have a 90 day window, while Debits are generally only 30 days. John Sileo of Divine Caroline advises using credit cards as opposed to Debit because Debit Cards are linked directly to your bank account, whereas Credit Cards are not so they will not empty the funds in your account.

3.     Only Shop Using Secure Networks. If the website does not have SSL, do not share any of your private information on it! It makes things easy for hackers and online thieves to spy on what you’re doing, what info you input. Your phones and computers store so much of your personal information that they are easy gateways to get through for someone wanting to steal your private data. If a site does not begin with “https” in the address bar, NEVER enter your personal or financial information on it. The “https” means that the page is encrypted, protecting you and your data.

4.     Don’t Shop Using Public Wi-Fi. This is mainly because the security of a public network cannot be verified. It’s tempting to hop on a Wi-Fi network for a quick purchase or to browse, but avoid this situation as much as you can.

5.     Make Sure to Have All Your Software Updated with the Newest Patches. When your computer and phone offer updates, update! And make sure that your anti-virus and anti-spyware are up to date and current. The digital devices you use are perfect hunting grounds from scammers and phishing. It’s easy to ignore updates, so just set your critical security patches for automatic updates. Remember, your personal data is only as secure as your software and hardware are.

6.     Write “Check Photo ID” on the Back of Your Credit Cards. This may sound like a simple thing, but it actually does help prevent fraud. Credit cards that have your photo on them are the best ones to use, and I tell all my clients to choose these types.

7.     Be Aware of What You Share Online. Posting the names of your kids, where you are going to shop today, what your specific plans for holiday travel are, or parties you will be attending open you up to thieves that troll your schedule; keeping your social media accounts private and only open to your family and friends you know is the easiest way to avoid criminals that stalk or lurk around your public information.

8.     Ladies Don’t Carry Open Purses. Many fashionable purses are not the safest during holiday season, as some are open at the top or held closed together by a single clasp. These are not good choices to shop around with especially during the holiday season. It is best to choose a purse that fully zips across the top of it, and even better if there is a flap to fold over the zipper that clips. This creates a double security and much more difficult for pick pockets to get their hands in your purse without you noticing.

9.     Always Check Your Statement. Checking your statement daily is the best way to stay ahead of any charges made by someone other than you on your bank account. I always recommend to my clients that they set alerts to their phones that notify them of any charges that are made to their accounts. Banks have apps that you can download and create specific alerts and notifications for activity within your accounts.

10.  Be Aware of Phishing. Unless you are the one initiating contact, do not share personal information online, especially when it comes to shopping. What happens a lot of times is an email will direct an online shopper to another to input credit card information, but the site it sends you to is bogus. Unless it is a very reputable store, do not share financial info.

Andy Kay

K&A Investigations