How the Grinch Stole Christmas is an all-time holiday classic with surprising present day implications, if you ask me. However, instead of making his way through Who-ville to steal your presents and last can of Who-hash, he’s swiping your banking information and stealing your cash! With the holiday shopping season in full swing, it’s important to take a few steps to secure your financial information. Here is a list of several tips that can help you protect yourself:
- Be mindful in the store– This is a big one. While shopping out and about, try to carry only the necessary identification and payment methods. Take a minute to think about how much personal information you carry in your purse and wallet. If stolen, this information could place you and your loved ones in serious danger.
- Be mindful online – When shopping online, make sure to double check the
credibility of the website you’re purchasing from. Scammers are very good at making fake websites look identical to the sites they want to imitate. Their goal? To get you to enter in your information without realizing you are not really on Amazon.com, but a spoofed site. As a rule of thumb, be sure to check for the locked padlock icon and ‘HTTPS: //’ in the URL. This article goes into more detail on how to validate the websites you visit and purchase from.
- Use your credit card instead – Consumer protection laws treat debit and credit cards very differently. Those affected by the Target breach learned this the hard way. Federal law states that personal liability for fraudulent credit card charges cannot exceed $50. With debit, you could be held responsible for the entire charge in some cases. To find out what you’re liability would be, be sure to check with your bank.
- Be on the lookout for skimmers – This is really tricky because scam artists are
masters of deception. Skimmers look exactly like legitimate card readers, which makes awareness very difficult. If something looks off at the ATM or gas pump, go somewhere else…The card reader might look broken or, even more deceiving, completely fine. Check out this article for more information.
- Check your balance daily – Be sure to check your credit card and bank statements daily. Many banks offer online banking services that make monitoring your accounts much easier. Just be sure that when you do this, you are connected to a secure network and not public wifi!!
- Monitor your credit scores – Monitoring your credit scores will tip you off if someone is making purchases in your name without your authorization. While credit scores tip you off, your credit report will list all lenders and accounts open in your name. If anything looks off, the sooner you become aware and report it, the better.
- Use a different password across accounts– If you’re like most people, you have the identical or very similar password for multiple accounts. Although it’s more convenient, it’s not secure. Until more secure and convenient authentication methods are available, be sure to diversify your passwords. Here’s an article that can help you with your password dilemma. Also, be sure to take advantage of multi-factor authentication when its available.
- Use Antivirus software – This is critical for keeping your computer free from malware. There are a lot of really good products on the market that serve as a good layer of protection as you surf the web. This article gives a side-by-side comparison of some of the top products.
This is not an all-inclusive list of security measures that consumers should be mindful of, but it’s a pretty good start. You do not have to be a security “enthusiast” to be knowledgeable and aware. If you have time, take a few minutes to browse the articles.