Last Christmas, my bank account information was compromised three times. Three. I had to get a new debit card, reset passwords, and spend more time on the phone with my bank than I’d like. I was hit twice at Target and once at a restaurant. One trip to brunch cost me over $100. Even I can’t drink that many mimosas.
Life is beautiful this time of year but unfortunately there are plenty of jerks. It’s vital to protect yourself and your information when you’re online shopping and out and about enjoying the season.
Here are a few tips to protect yourself this year:
When online shopping, avoid entering financial information on unsecured networks. It’s fine to do it on your password-protected home network, but it’s not safe to do while you’re sipping a drink and using the free wifi at Starbucks.
Change online bank and credit card account passwords on a regular basis, and don’t make them simple. Gone are the days when “password” or “1234” were legitimate, safe choices. It’s best to use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. And, as tempting as it seems to do otherwise, you should have a different password for every account.
Make sure you’re shopping on legitimate sites. Most of your well-known commerce sites should be safe (fingers crossed), but if you’re searching for a deal, beware; only use sites with “https” in the URL: the “s” stands for secure.
It’s easier to keep track of only one card, so try to use the same credit or debit card for all holiday purchases.
Hold onto receipts. This seems antiquated, but luckily some stores now send e-receipts. Last year I tossed my restaurant receipt because I didn’t want to carry it around- it took much longer to correct the stolen money issue because I had no record. I now have a catch-all drawer for every receipt.
Check your bank and credit card statements regularly. I discovered the issue with the restaurant quickly last year because I check my online account like a hawk.
Use good judgment and common sense. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t open email attachments from people you don’t know, don’t send money to strangers (I encountered this on more than one occasion while working in the banking industry), and don’t give your account information to anyone.
If you do become a victim of fraud or theft, let your bank or credit card company know right away. Shut it down.
I’m no expert, but these are tips I’ve researched and learned the hard way.
What advice would you add? Have you been a victim of holiday fraud?