With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday and all other days in between today and the holidays, it is important that we not only get a good deals but protect ourselves as we shop. Preventing fraud when shopping is especially important when shopping online.
Fraud is always higher during the holiday season as criminals know that people tend to drop their guard a bit around this time as we focus on other things.
Don’t fall for fraud! Be vigilant when it comes to protecting your information, not just during the holidays, but all year round.
Here are a few tips to help you protect yourself against fraud.
Fraud Protection Tips
- Always verify your contact information for accuracy
- Change your passwords regularly
- Use one dedicated credit card for all online and/or holiday store purchase
- Do not use over-draft protection
- Beware of strange calls, emails, and text messages
- Do not open email attachments if you’re even the least bit unsure
- When in doubt, check it out
- Print confirmation receipts
- Keep track of expected delivery dates
- Review monthly statements
Before you make any online purchase, you want to verify your account information for accuracy. Should your account be hacked, this may be the first way to know. Someone may change the address or telephone number.
These days, all stores prompt you to set up an account with them under the guise that it is to protect you and helps to track packages easily. That may be true, but it also is to allow them to market to you at a later date. Having an account with stores also allows you to store your financial information to make purchasing at a later date just a click away; no more entering the entire card number.
While these things are helpful, especially for those of us who are pretty exclusive with our online shopping, having an online account increases your likelihood to spend more money and more importantly, the opportunity for the account to be hacked.
So, always verify that all of your information is correct.
Change Your Passwords Regularly
I don’t have a lot of online store accounts. When I place orders, I try to always check out as a guest. However, that is not always the case. My exception? Amazon! (I might be a Prime addict!)
I recently began receiving strange emails from “Amazon”. Of course, I didn’t click on the attachments in the emails, but I did mention it to an IT person and he verified that the emails were not from Amazon.
I went into my Amazon account and found things in my wish list that I did not authorize.
I changed my password immediately! (I also deleted any/all bank and debit information, just in case.)
Luckily, no purchases were made with the account, but it opened my eyes. Now I am very diligent about looking over my account information and making sure that all is as is should be.
Use One Dedicated Credit Card
A bank manager gave me a bit of advice after I found fraud on my bank account…get a debit card (without overdraft protection) and use it just for online purchases. Add funds to the account as needed.
I listened and this is what I found.
Online purchasing is much easier to track!
If I find something online to purchase costing $10, I transfer $10 in the account and make the purchase. Now if someone tries to make a purchase (or you lose the card in the parking lot at the mall—don’t ask), they can make as many attempts as they want, there is no additional money on the card. (I do keep a $10 balance).
Because of this setup, it’s easy to notice when an attempt has been made on the card.
Use a Card That Does NOT Have Overdraft Protection
I know that this may be a touchy area as so many people see overdraft protection as a life-line…just in case.
Well, it is on a rare occasion that overdraft protection is actually a lifeline. More than often, it is abused. (Being married to an ex-bank manager, I have been thoroughly lectured.) If you know that you only have $50 to spend because the money in your primary account is earmarked for your rent, don’t feel like you averted danger when you spend $75 on a pair of shoes (or whatever else is not totally necessary for life). You have potentially created an issue and ‘kicked the can’ down the road when the time comes to pay that rent.
Or how about being a person who is financially secure. Fraud occurs on your account, 3 times; just small amounts ($0.19, $0.22, $0.50). You didn’t realize it until you are hit with $500 being taken from your account via overdraft protection. It’s not a good feeling.
These days, just about everyone has a smartphone making it easy to transfer funds between accounts (in the same bank). Don’t take the risk.
As I do not have overdraft protection, there is no risk of money being spent from my primary account should a (or another) fraud attempt be made.
Beware Of Strange Calls, Emails, and Text Messages
Holiday time is the perfect time for scammers to do their worst. Do not get caught in their trap.
Be suspicious of any call, email or text message that you receive that puts questions in your mind. If you have to ask, “Who is this? How did they get my number/email?”, then you should probably be wary.
Scammers use very professional sounding tactics to trick people into giving up their account and/or personal information, including passwords. No one should ever call you asking questions; especially password information.
When In Doubt, Check It Out
Should you find yourself the receiver of strange or questionable calls, texts, or emails, contact the company/sender using a 1-800 customer service number (Google it or look on a statement) and inquire.
It is especially important around the holidays to question any unsolicited communication.
It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Print Confirmation Receipts
When ordering anything online print the confirmation immediately after purchase. Don’t wait for the email confirmation.
I had an issue with an order purchased online for store pick-up.
I had my phone with the confirmation ready for the store employee to scan. Well, there was an issue, and she couldn’t scan it. I couldn’t find the original email with the purchase confirmation that she requested. It was a mess! Of course, this happened on a busy day when I had other appointments. I was frustrated, she was frustrated, and the customers behind me were frustrated (because I was not leaving without my package). In the end, we were able to work out the situation and I received my package, but it took 20 extra minutes!
So, the moral of the store, print your proof of purchase (confirmation).
Keep Track Of Expected Delivery Dates
Tracking delivery dates is very important. If you are unable to be at your home on the day of delivery and are unsure of the expected delivery date, then you are wasting precious time in notifying the companies should your delivery not arrive or (worse) be stolen from your property.
Recently there was talk in the news about packages being taken from people’s property after delivery. To make things worse, the delivery worker was scanning packages as delivered and immediately stealing them! It happened to be caught on camera. How many times did this happen before it was finally caught?
So, know your delivery dates. If possible, have someone at home to await their arrival (Although, recently I have had several packages delivered to my home as I sat in the living room awaiting their arrival. The delivery person did not knock or ring the bell to notify me of their arrival). Immediately notify the company if the package has not arrived as expected.
Review Monthly Statements
Along with being vigilant every step of the way, the most important thing you can do is review your monthly statements.
It is time-consuming and we would love to bask in the comfort of knowing that fraud detection teams are also looking line-by-line at our statements, with our numbers on speed dial…just waiting for the opportunity to call us and save us the aggravation, heartache, and frustration that comes with having your identity stolen.
One can dream.
Well, the only one best equipped to look out for you is you!
Review each and every statement, especially during the holidays, to make sure that the purchases made are accounted for and that no fraudulent purchases appear.
Contact your credit company, bank, or PayPal should you see anything that does not make sense.
As mentioned above, the only one best equipped to protect you against fraud is you!
Be proactive. Be vigilant. Be conscious and aware of your situations. Be safe.