We’re in the middle of the holiday shopping season and you can’t be too careful with your cash and credit cards! You certainly don’t want to be paranoid about your credit and cash safety but you definitely should be thinking about shopping safely this season.
Don’t let your shopping trip be de-railed by having your credit card information or your credit card or cash itself stolen. Fortunately, we’ve got some tips for shopping security during the holidays both online and offline.
- Use a Chip Card – If you don’t already have an EMV chip credit or debit card, get one. When you use a chip card in a chip-enabled reader, the card generates a one-time code for the transaction. If your card information is stolen, a thief can’t use that specific code to buy anything else so it prevents further losses.
- Be Careful at the ATM – Thieves can steal your card information directly from the ATM by attaching a card skimming device to the ATM. These devices can look like they are part of the machine, however, they scan your card to collect your personal information. Your best defense is to use an ATM at a credit union or bank location where they are monitored by cameras and, as a result, are a bit more difficult to modify. If anything looks “off” about the ATM, walk away and find another machine. In addition, when you enter your password and obtain cash from the machine, be very aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Remember Your Personal Safety – With so many people out and about, it’s important to be on high-alert regarding your own personal safety. Be especially alert walking to and from your vehicle. Do not let strangers help you with your packages and keep your phone, wallet, and purse secure from pickpockets. That may mean not putting these items in your back pocket, where they are easily accessible.
- Shop at Reputable Stores – Go to known web addresses and stick to familiar stores and brands. No-name retailers may be trying to lure you in to gain access to your credit or personal information. Shop with stores that you trust.
- Enter Your Card Information on a Secure Page – When you are ready to make your online purchase, make sure that you see the “https” at the beginning of the web address and look for the lock icon next to it. This means you are on a secure webpage. If you don’t see that, don’t enter your credit card or personal information. In addition, do not give out your personal information via email or telephone unless you initiated the contact.
- Keep Your Computer Up to Date – If you are shopping online, it’s critical that your computer security is up to date to prevent viruses and malware, that can grab your personal information. Keep your computer operating system, browser and anti-virus software current and set all of them to update automatically.
- Use Strong Passwords – If you use easily guessable passwords, you’re making it easy for hackers to access your bank accounts or store accounts. Keep thieves out by creating good passwords, which should be at least eight characters long and contain a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Do not use personal information like your birthday, drivers license number or address.
- Avoid Public WiFi – While it’s convenient, it’s hard to tell who is watching you when you are using a network that is open to all. Browsing the web isn’t a big deal but if you want to shop or access your credit union accounts, wait until you are using a secure browser.
Happy safe shopping friends!