Is holiday shopping at the top of your to-do list? You’re not alone. Consumers are expected to spend more than $650 billion during the upcoming holiday shopping season, with non-store sales projected to increase between 7 and 10 percent, according to the National Retail Federation. Amidst all the hustle and bustle in the quest to check off everything on your list, don’t forget one of the most important things: security.
“When you’re rushing to finish everything around the holidays, you’re more likely to let your defenses down when it comes to payment security,” says Trevor Buxton, a fraud awareness and communications manager and Certified Fraud Examiner with PNC Bank. “But being lax with your cards or not double checking for secure websites can cost you valuable time – and money – if your information is compromised.”
In an effort to keep your finances safer this holiday season, Buxton provides a few tips for keeping your personal and account information more secure.
1. Shields Up – Use your free hand to shield the keypad when punching in your PIN, and always cover your card numbers when removing a credit or debit card from your wallet. Remember that those behind you in line can use their cellphones as cameras for more than capturing embarrassing moments in life to post on social channels!
2. Look for the lock – Purchase only from online vendors with secure websites. There are several ways to identify this security by checking the address bar:
3. Shop online from home – Avoid shopping online using a public or unsecured Wi-Fi network. Public Wi-Fi may not be as secure, making it easier for your personal information to be compromised. After your purchase, sign up for alerts from the shipper to notify you when they deliver the package. Take packages inside as soon as possible to help prevent theft from your doorstep.
4. Dip with your chip - Chip card technology helps protect your card information with an extra layer of security when you shop in a store and dip your card instead of sliding it. This technology is more widely available at retailers today and creates a one-time code for each purchase that is harder for criminals to copy.
5. Look out for a skimmer - Before using an ATM, check it for signs of a skimming device, which can steal card information. When in doubt, wiggle or gently pull the card reader or PIN pad. Real ATMs are solidly constructed and won’t have loose parts.
6. Lose the paper trail – Opt for emailed receipts and statements and keep paper receipts and paper statements out of publically accessible places (like a trash can or even your mailbox). These steps can reduce the opportunities for the naughty to access your personal or account information.
7. Use re-loadable gift cards - Select cards that can be used for purchases at a number of online or brick-and-mortar retailers. Load the card with the dollar amount you’ve budgeted for holiday shopping. These cards are not connected to any of your bank or credit card accounts, which will keep those accounts safe in the event of a data compromise. As an added benefit, sticking to the amount loaded on the card helps you stay within your budget for the holiday season.
8. Monitor your account regularly: After the wrapping paper stops flying around your house, remember to review your account statements and recent transactions. Look for any discrepancies and immediately report suspicious activity to your bank.
But being lax with your cards or not double checking for secure websites can cost you valuable time – and money – if your information is compromised.
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