As we head into the holiday season, your credit and debit cards are probably going to see a lot of traffic as you buy gifts for your friends and family. While identity theft is a widespread issue, taking some basic fraud protection steps will allow you to shop confidently and securely throughout the holiday season. If you’re traveling, you can also do small things to protect yourself in big ways without worrying.
Online Security Measures
Cashing in on hot, online holiday deals is tempting to do anytime. However, while you’re out of the house, it’s best to avoid logging into secure sites or entering credit card payments while you’re on a public network. Unencrypted, or open, networks are just that: open for anyone to access. That makes it easier for people who are paying attention to get a peek (even if it’s over your shoulder) at your data. Also, before you check your email or even surf the web, confirm the name of the local network at the coffee shop or library with an employee to make sure you’re using their vetted network. You don’t want to mistakenly hop onto a free Wi-Fi network setup for a phishing or hacking scheme.
Way back when you set up your home network, you likely had to enter a password to get online. That encryption is a vital level of security between you and outside sniffers who are looking for personal information. If your home Wi-Fi hasn’t been secured, contact your service provider or a networking professional to update your router settings.
Travel Tips for Safe Travels
Credit cards make it easier than ever to spend money overseas. Typically, it’s also more convenient and cost effective to withdraw cash from a teller machine than it is to travel with American dollars and exchange then for foreign currency at a bank. That’s a good thing, too. Try and get in the habit of using cash at restaurants, shops, gas stations, and small hotels, especially when you’re out of the country. You certainly don’t want to follow your waiter into the back to ensure that he or she is taking a photo of your credit card or jotting down the number when you pay the bill.
Of course, the vast majority of restaurant and hotel staff members are trustworthy. Still, lock up your credit cards, debit cards, and extra cash right along with your passports in a safe when you leave the room. You may even want to use an RFID blocking wallet to stop someone trying to swipe info from a distracted tourist.
Beware Email Spam
There are countless scams floating around the Internet asking you to enter your personal credit card or banking information. Since it’s impossible to block all spam from your inbox and social media accounts, you have to be your own advocate. If a coupon deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The best tool for researching online swindles is Google. There are plenty of online resources that can help you identify the latest trick, so you recognize scams now and in the future.
Monitor Your Credit Card Activity
Log into your online credit card accounts regularly (two to three times per week at a minimum) so you notice any illegal purchases immediately. The best form of fraud protection is awareness. The sooner you notify your bank, the better equipped you are to safeguard your credit. Should there be any erroneous or fake charges, have the bank cancel your credit card and resend you a new one immediately.
Just to be on the safe side, change your passwords to all financial accounts on a semi-regular basis. Taking this step is mandatory if you are the victim of credit card fraud. Write your new passwords by hand and try not to store them locally on your computer your mobile device.
Credit card protection does not mean you have to live life looking over your shoulder. In general, being smart and somewhat cautious ensures that you can enjoy shopping and traveling securely. Common sense is always your friend and taking extra measures to keep your private info private keeps you safe in the long run.