6 Ways to Fight Fraud this Holiday Season

Friday, November 30th, 2018
Wrapped Christmas stacked in front of a tree

The holidays are in full swing! As shoppers scramble for the best deals to complete their lists, they often leave themselves vulnerable to identity theft and fraudulent charges. In fact, the 2017 holiday season saw a 30% increase in reported incidents of fraud. Spoofers, phishers, and scammers are on the prowl, and they know how to use the chaos of gift-buying to their advantage.

Thankfully, you can easily fight these odds and avoid dealing with fraudulent charges in several ways. Take a look at these tips and tricks for shopping safely this holiday season.

1. Count Your Cards

Every evening, open your wallet and do a card count. It almost sounds too simple to be useful, but it’s effective. Doing this allows you to confirm that all your cards are accounted for and to act quickly if you notice one missing. If you misplace a card or drop it after making a purchase somewhere, it is all too easy for anyone to pick it up make fraudulent charges. As a rule, the sooner you notice a card missing and act on it, the better! Most credit unions and banks have a way to temporarily freeze a card while you try to locate it, rather than cancelling the card completely.

2. Use a separate credit card for online purchases

hand of Caucasian male holding credit card to make online purchase from laptop

Consider using a credit card specifically for your online purchases, particularly during the holiday season. Here’s why: you are not liable for most fraudulent charges made on a credit card (if you report them promptly). But you may be held liable for a certain amount on fraudulent charges made with a debit card. It’s also much more difficult to recover the money taken out of your account, if at all. Because purchases made online run a higher risk of fraud, a credit card will mitigate the damage if your information is indeed stolen.

Bonus Tip: Why not go a step further and get a pre-paid gift card to use while making online purchases? Set the limit below that of your credit card. This way, you keep your credit card number completely safe.

3. Put a sticker on it

This one is simple and easy: put a sticker on the security code on the back of the card. Most online purchases require a card’s security code, so by placing a sticker on the security code (after you’ve memorized it, of course), you’ve rendered the card useless. You’ve also made it impossible for anyone holding it to get all the necessary digits to make a duplicate.

4. Don’t take the bait

Phishing is one of the oldest tricks in the book. While most attempts are easy to spot, keep in mind that phishing kits have become sophisticated in their deception. Always be wary of any email asking you to follow a link to provide any personal information, even if it seems to be from a trusted source. Never enter your card information online unless you have manually visited the page by typing in the URL in your browser’s address bar. Also, hover your mouse over links to ensure that it is where you want to go.

One type of phishing attempt to watch out for during the holiday season is a phony package notification coming from what seems to be a reputable courier, but clicking the link will result in downloading a virus or spyware. Always call the courier first to confirm the validity of this notification.

African-American male with glasses checks phone for fraudulent charges alert5. Set up mobile alerts

If you haven’t already, download the mobile app for your financial institution. From there, explore the different types of alerts you can opt for. You can elect to be notified of any purchases over $100 made online, purchases made from a foreign IP address, or even a simple daily text with your account balance. This can be instrumental in circumventing fraudulent charges as they appear as the alerts provide continual monitoring of your account.

6. Read the reviews first

tablet and external keyboard used to search Google

If you plan on making a purchase through an online vendor you’re unfamiliar with, do a quick Google to look for any reviews warning others of fraud. It’s worth working through at least two pages of the results to ensure you’re not just looking at optimized results.

These are only a few of the measures you can take to protect yourself against fraud during the holiday season and through the year. They’re simple techniques that can be easily and simultaneously integrated into your daily routine, which will result in the greatest self-defense measure: habit. By making these measures a long-lasting daily habit, you give yourself the ability to be vigilant and proactive during this Christmas shopping season and beyond.