Stores are playing carols and changing their seasonal displays – which means holiday season shopping is upon us! But in all the rush and hustle to find the perfect gift, sometimes we forget to give ourselves the gift that keeps on giving. It’s one-size-fits-all and the one thing no one would ever return.

It’s the gift of security, knowing you have protected yourself from credit card scams and identity theft. This growing problem affected approximately 16.7 million American consumers that lost $16.8 billion in 2017. Data also suggests 33% is due to credit card fraud (sham purchases are made on your credit card) and 12% is bank fraud (thieves take over an existing account or open a new one under your name).

The question then becomes: How do you confidently make online and in-store purchases without worrying every second that someone will steal your identity or money? The good news is there are several simple steps you can take to protect yourself from credit card scams and identity theft.

8 Suggestions to Guard Against Credit Card Scams

Keep in mind, any time or any kind of purchase made with a check, card, or mobile wallet could be intercepted by a thief. It’s through a combined effort from business owners, app providers, your bank, the credit card companies, and you to ensure you’re secure.

1. Track Your Purchases

Keep a clear record of what, when, and from whom you purchased items. Save digital and print receipts in a secure location for only the time you need them. Get rid of receipts a few weeks after the gift is given. Shred all unnecessary or old receipts.

Immediately read all statements. If there are any questionable or fraudulent charges, report them to the authorities and check that your other accounts haven’t been compromised. The faster identity theft and credit card scams are discovered, the easier it is to address them.

2. Check Your Credit Report

It’s a good practice to know what your credit score is throughout the year, but it’s especially important during a heavy buying period or before an extremely large purchase. Identity theft, new credit cards, new accounts, and big purchases will show on your credit score.

There are several credit monitoring sites that offer free services. Upgrade to paid packages for additional benefits. Just make sure the one you choose is trustworthy – a fake reporting company is another opportunity for scammers to steal your information.

3. Only Use One or Two Specific Cards

Using a smaller number of cards makes it easier to track purchases and recognize if there is a problem. Most safety and identity theft prevention sources recommend using a card with a chip, as this technology has additional safeguards to keep you and your money safe. Also , leave cards at home if you aren’t making a purchase, in case your purse or wallet is stolen.

4. Beware of Public WiFi

Public WiFi is often not secure. Anytime there is personal data, it’s best to only access it on a secure device at a protected location like your home. Wait to make digital purchases until you are home. Don’t review digital receipts when on public WiFi and avoid banking over unsecure WiFi connections.

5. Only Shop with Trusted Vendors

This includes brick-and-mortar locations, pop-up stores, and online businesses. Trusted locations will offer improved payment security options. If in doubt, ask the owner or manager about their security measures. Look for safety indicators on sites like certified PayPal logos to ensure protection.

6. Beware of Special Offers

Always err on the side of caution. If it sounds too good to be true, the site looks sketchy, or the company has bad reviews, do not give them any of your personal data – including your address or phone number. If you are in a store, this may also include purchasing extended warranties or rain checks.

7. Consider Mobile Wallets

These can be through your bank, a phone company, or apps. Mobile wallets typically offer enhanced security features to protect against a loss of your phone (fingerprint scans or face ID) and your account information is not stored on your device. Each account has a virtual card number that is only for your mobile program and device.

8. Improve Your Passwords

If it’s been a long time since you created your passwords, update them before you make any purchases. Stay away from any passwords that are easy to figure out: 1234, password, your dog’s name, your child’s name, and your birthdate.

Avoid Credit Card Scams and Shop with Confidence

In your excitement to complete that holiday shopping, remember that this is also a thief’s favorite time of year. A high volume of purchases means more opportunity for hackers. People are less likely to pay attention to their credit security during the flurry of activities and holiday commitments. Don’t get suckered in by credit card scams. Protect yourself.

To learn more about cybersecurity and protecting your business from scammers, contact the experts at Donnellon McCarthy.