By Eileen Jones, Master Financial Education Volunteer
Make sure your holiday season is merry and safe with these important reminders for protecting your identity and financial info.
Before you deck the halls this holiday season, take a few minutes to review these important reminders for protecting your identity and financial information.
- Shop smart online and in the stores. You can put your financial information at risk whether you shop online or in-store. Be smart. Before purchasing anything online, shop only at trusted websites and those that display a secure lock sign or URL that starts with “https://”. Instead of entering your credit card online, consider payment services such as Visa® Checkout.
- In stores, make sure to use your chip card at chip-enabled card readers. Or, pay with your phone using your digital wallet. When these options aren’t possible, use credit cards that provide zero liability protection.
- Don’t give your information to an unfamiliar charity. Identity thieves are known to prey on holiday givers by setting up fake charities or giving campaigns. Unless you’re already familiar with a charity, this is an easy way for scammers to collect your personal information and money. Be wary of sketchy phone calls and emails soliciting your information.
- To determine the legitimacy of a charity, you can research the charity yourself or use an online service such as charitynavigator.com, an independent charity evaluator.
- Select your ATM carefully. You’ve probably heard stories in the news about ATM skimming. With this scam, thieves attach electronic devices on or near ATMs to collect your card number and PIN. The easiest way to avoid using tampered machines is to use ATMs in well-lit areas or inside bank lobbies. Always shield the keyboard with your hand as you enter your PIN. If the ATM doesn’t look quite right, it’s better to avoid it entirely.
- Keep your travel plans off social media. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your excitement about a holiday trip to yourself, but it’s always wise to make sure your plans are only revealed to those you trust. Don’t mention your travel plans or post vacation photos on social media until well after your trip. Otherwise, you could be welcoming criminals to an empty house. (Think Home Alone!)
- Eyeball your credit report. It never hurts to check up on your credit report, especially during or following a busy purchasing time like the holidays. To receive a copy of your credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Shred unnecessary receipts. Receipts tend to collect in your wallet, purse or shopping bags. Sometimes the information on them can be enough for an identity thief to do damage. Shred those receipts, along with junk mail or documents containing your information, on a regular basis.
- Pay attention to data breach announcements. If you hear of a data breach that could impact your personal information, take action as soon as possible. Place fraud alerts or credit freezes with credit bureaus and contact the creditors or banks associated with the breached company.
- Put identity theft protection in place. Consider purchasing identity theft protection. It’s a great way to help protect your identity and keep track of your personal financial information. If you have it, make sure you’ve activated all of its features, so your product is doing the best detect-and-alert work it possibly can.
Remember: The holiday season is a time to celebrate with loved ones. Don’t let identity thieves put a damper on your spirit!