With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, keeping your account information private may be the furthest thing from your mind. But believe it or not, all it really takes is one peek of your credit card innocently displayed in your hand and Hobo Joe standing in line behind you goes on a booze shopping spree ten minutes later. Never underestimate the sliminess of the people who cohabitate the earth with you. Plus, anyone with a cell phone can just snap a picture of your card and away they go. Before you head out in the jungle that is the holiday shopping season, read these four important tips to preventing fraud.
- Don’t allow any free peeks. Of your credit card, that is. Standing in line is boring; you may not realize that you’re blatantly displaying your credit card number to anyone within a 10 foot radius while day dreaming about all of the other gifts you still need to purchase. It’s okay to have your credit card out and in your hand, but face the number side into your palm so no one can snatch a glance or a picture of your valuable information. Photographic memories can do quite a bit of damage to your bank account.
- Take stock of your wallet/purse contents. Do this before you go shopping. That way, if your wallet or purse does get stolen, you know exactly what was in it, which will make it slightly easier to cancel any credit cards. The bottom line is this: carry as little as possible; social security cards, passports, birth certificates, and extra credit cards should be carried only if absolutely necessary. Otherwise, leave them at home.
- Limit the information you give and allow to be displayed. Buying online or over the phone? Make sure that the company is legit first. Unless a website has that little “https” at the beginning of its URL in the address bar, don’t trust it to put credit card information through. Don’t put any confidence into unsolicited callers claiming to represent a creditor or financial institution. Often times, these criminals will open up a fraudulent account using your social security number, especially with the increase of activity around the holidays. Do not allow your social security number to be printed on your checks either, as a crook may find a way to snake his way into your purse or wallet while you’re not looking.
- Smarten up online. Log off completely when you have finished with any online transactions from any e-commerce platform. By just closing or minimizing the webpage, you’re putting your information at risk. Simply typing in a new website isn’t a smart idea either. Don’t allow your browser to remember any of your passwords or user names. Bulk up on your computer’s security program. Anti-virus, anti-spam, and spyware are all necessary normally, but even more so during the holiday season. Make sure all updates are the most recent versions. Stay away from emailing personal account information; while you may have your computer protected, the business you are emailing may not, which puts you at risk.
Kristy Kravitsky is a 2011 college graduate with a degree in English.