5 Ways to Prevent Fraud This Holiday Season
2020 has been eventful. From an election to a worldwide pandemic, the word "eventful" is probably a bit of an understatement.
With shared disappointment from us here at Starion, it seems like the COVID crisis will be with us through the holidays - and this means that your annual holiday shopping will look less like a bundled up, festive outing to our favorite stores with a warm latte in hand, and more like a click or two adding gifts to a digital shopping cart.
This year has already broken multiple records for online retail sales, and this holiday season will likely break a few more. A lot of stores transitioned to online-only shopping which means the majority of this years’ annual holiday shopping surge will be online. We don't want to add to the chaos or stress of the year, but we want to bring some awareness to the increased risk of a fraudster stealing your personal information when shopping online this year.
Because NO ONE wants to spend Christmas Eve on the phone with a customer service rep at your bank dealing with fraud. No one! (customer service rep included.) We want you to finish 2020 on the best note possible. This means not on a "someone stole my credit card information online and maxed out the card" kind of note.
That's why we're here to bring five great tips to keep your personal information safe and secure this holiday season, far out of reach from fraudsters.
1. Make sure your site are secure
Ecommerce is the premier method of shopping in 2020. Online checkouts coupled with your card information safely stored in a digital wallet provide the most convenient and effortless shopping experience you can imagine. In order to prevent a fraudster from stealing your information while enjoying those effortless shopping experiences, you have to understand which sites are secure and which ones are not. Don’t worry, you don’t have to understand a lick of HTML to check whether or not a site is secure.
The next time you're on a website, you simply have look at the URL to know if you’re in good hands. If the URL starts with "HTTPS", you’re all set! The "S" following HTTP literally stands for “secure.”
Their should also be a small gray padlock just to the left of the URL.
If the site doesn't include these things, it's not a secure site. Feel free to keep browsing, but keep your credit card safe and secure in your wallet or purse.
2. Card number or SSN? Which is more valuable?
Most thieves and hackers scouring the internet for others' personal information would be happier nabbing a credit card number for Christmas over nothing at all. But what many of them are really writing to Santa for (or more like the Grinch, right?) is your sweet, sweet Social Security Number.
With a SSN, a fraudster can open new credit card or bank accounts under your name, and spend money on those new cards with no intention, of course, of paying off the balance.
So while they’ll get a free shopping spree, you’ll get nothing but a massive headache and a plummeted credit score.
Make sure your SSN is safe and out of reach from hackers. The best place to store your SSN? Not in a folder on your desktop labeled “private” or in the notes app of your iPhone - but in a secure password storage service. Here’s a great list of a few trustworthy apps to store your personal information in: Password Storage Apps! Another great option, if you can, is to lock that number away in your memory.
3. Use a secure checkout method
When you're ready to hit purchase on those holiday goodies, one best practice is to checkout using a service like Apple Pay, Android Pay, Visa Checkout, or MasterPass. There are plenty of different convenient and secure checkout options to choose from, all of which are more secure than just free-handing your credit/debit card information into a checkout form.
These forms of payment use several layers of encryption to protect your card information and they never store your credit card number, but instead – an encrypted code which is used to make purchases. When you checkout online with them, they block many avenues a fraudster might try to take to access your card information.
4. Keep a close eye on your accounts
Banks and credit card companies have made checking your account balances and recent transactions easier than ever. This means that it's easier to catch fraudulent activity early. Enrolling for e-statements from your bank or credit card company is a great, but instead of tossing it to the side of your inbox, make it a habit to go through your statement to make sure everything looks A-OK, with no $650.00 charges at a California surf shop going unnoticed on your statement.
Your bank or credit card company probably offers mobile account notifications too. Every time your card is charged, a notification will be pushed to your phone, letting you keep track of your transactions while catching fraudulent ones right away.
If possible, setup a text alert for any purchase on your card greater than .50 cents. Many fraudsters will try a small $1.00 charge to test if the account is active before spending more.
Another recommendation is to sign up for account trackers that will notify you of any changes in your credit score or if your SSN is used to open a new account somewhere. Apps like Credit Karma or Equifax are great for this!
5. Be wary of the "too good to be true” deals
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It's not uncommon around this time of year to start getting fantastic "deals" in your email inbox, by text, or in ads as you travel through the internet. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it likely comes with some serious strings attached. In order to redeem the fantastic "deal", you first have to provide some form of personal information.
Your best bet is to avoid those types of too good to be true deals altogether. Fraudsters use such tricks as lures for unsuspecting online shoppers. Keep your information safe by avoiding them outright and all links associated with them.
Not all of these deals are lures, however. If one catches your interest, do some due diligence into the vendor or online store to see if they're trustworthy. Perhaps you did just run into some holiday luck!
None of this is meant to scare you. Pay attention, be aware and use common sense. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is! Have fun with your holiday shopping, just be careful. We want you spending this holiday season with family (or at least doing something you love, not on the phone with a customer service rep!)
Take a few extra precautions during your online shopping, go over your e-statement when it arrives in your inbox, and then relax and enjoy your fraud-free holiday season!