Consumers are eager to get a jump start on holiday shopping, and to take advantage of some exciting sales. But all this hype comes with a warning: Yes, Virginia, there is a reason to worry!
As excited as you are about getting the best deal for your money, there are equally anxious criminals out there who are excited about the prospect of ripping you off — both in person and online.
Here are some tips you should heed for your financial safety:
- Keep a close eye on your wallet and credit and bank cards. Use just one or two cards, and leave the rest of your wallet contents at home — including your Social Security card.
- If you give your card to a cashier for the sale, make sure the card you get back is yours.
- Be on the alert for purse snatchers and pickpockets — including the potential criminal behind you in the checkout line.
- Protect your PIN. Shield the keyboard when entering your information on point of sale terminals.
- Use care at the ATM. It’s better to use a machine you are familiar with, to assure it hasn’t been tampered with.
- Get cash at your ATM a day or so in advance, not on your way to, or at, the mall. But don’t carry large amounts of cash on your shopping trip — a wad of bills is a sure lure for criminals.
If you’re saving your shopping for Cyber Monday, you’ll need to be just as cautious. Here are a few quick tips:
- Do your shopping from your own computer. Avoid public computers in libraries and hotels.
- Make sure you are shopping on a secure site. Look for a padlock icon at the bottom of the page, and for “https://” instead of the usual “http://” at the beginning of the web address.
- Beware of emails that provide embedded links to online stores. They often contain phishing software that records your personal information as you type.
- Know where you’re shopping. Fake sites that offer fantastic bargains will take your credit card information and run with it, and the item you thought you ordered will never appear on your doorstep.
- Take advantage of online banking to keep a close eye on account activity, and check your credit card statements carefully. If you see anything suspicious, act quickly to resolve the situation and prevent further damage.