With the holiday season upon us, remember websites get hacked, scammers are trying to trick people into revealing important information via the phone and e-mail and you need to be careful when using your credit cards when making in-store purchases. Here are some tips to help make your holiday season go smoothly.
Important identifying information:
Remember to keep safe your birthdate, social security number and payment information. These are all part of your unique identity. If any of this information is stolen, you have reason to be concerned and take action. If you reveal information that appears in a phone book, odds are, you’re only at risk of getting more junk mail.
Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official (request for social security number for jury duty) a family member (Wire me money grandma, I’ve been robbed) or a charity or sweepstakes (police or fire fighters calling for political action funds). Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.
- Chips cards provide an extra layer of security when you buy in a store (not online). Not all merchants have chip card readers, so then you must swipe your card. This underscores the need for you to monitor your spending transactions.
- Be sure your card is returned following each purchase and that it is indeed your card.
- Wait for the card receipt. Never leave it at the checkout counter; and keep receipts with you, not in your shopping bags.
- Review transactions in your financial account every day or two. Report any suspicious activity such as unexplained withdrawals to your financial institution immediately.
- Check your statements and watch for multiple or incorrect charges. Compare receipts to your account statements, and then destroy your receipts.
- Report unauthorized transactions to your financial institution immediately.
- Keep a list of your card account numbers and telephone numbers to call if your cards are lost or stolen. Keep that list in a secure place.
- Make sure you have signed your credit and debit cards. Do not write your PIN on the card!
- When entering your PIN, block the keypad from the view of the cashier or other customers.
- Running your card as credit rather than debit is another way of protecting your PIN.
Online Shopping: Use a Secure Internet Connection
- Do not use public wireless networks for online purchases.
- Shop on sites with https:// in the web address, and be sure that an icon with a lock appears to the left. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates communication with that site is encrypted.
- Do online searches. Type a company or product name into a search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
- Type the merchant’s address directly into your browser; avoid links.
- Use complicated passwords with at least eight characters. Include numbers, special characters and upper and lower case numbers.
- Keep the antivirus and security software updated on your computers and mobile devices.
Because of convenience, do not store your payment information because it’s also convenient for thieves.
- Do not respond to pop ups, and do not share card information via email or texts.
- Set up payment and purchase alerts via text and email. If you notice suspicious activity, notify your credit union immediately.
Always be aware of how and where you are making purchases with debit and credit cards to protect yourself from potential threats. If you suspect your account has been compromised, contact your financial institution immediately for assistance.
Check your Credit Report
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.
To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228 or mailing to Annual Credit Report Request Service.