Susan Tompor Detroit Free Press
Published 7:00 AM EST Nov 17, 2018
Holiday shoppers hold onto your wallets — literally. The frenzied deals and discounts that kick off Thanksgiving Day and run through Cyber Monday will bring out the fraudsters, too, along with everyday consumers.
Most people will still hit the malls and discount stores. But more than 40 percent of holiday shoppers will make nearly all of their purchases online, according to a new survey on Holiday Shopping and the Impact of Fraud by TransUnion.
When it comes to security, six out of 10 shoppers say the most important thing a web site can do is protect their account information and credit card information, according to the holiday survey.
And 88 percent of those surveyed said they are willing to go through additional steps at checkout when shopping online to ensure the safety of their information.
Here are eight ways to keep your money safe through the holiday shopping season:
1. Watch your wallet
Crooks still are more than happy to get their hands on physical credit cards. Don’t leave your wallet in your car. Don’t casually leave your purse in a shopping cart while you’re walking over to grab some dinner rolls out of the supermarket freezer section.
Pickpockets are likely to act fast and take use those stolen credit cards to buy gift cards, electronics or even fill their tank with gas.
2. Avoid clicking on crazy coupons on Facebook
Costco Wholesale isn’t giving away a $75 coupon to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
“The scam provided links which led to web pages (which were not operated or sponsored by Costco) that displayed a Costco logo along with entreaties such as ‘You have been selected to take part in our short survey to get a Free $75 Costco Coupon! We only have 332 Coupons remaining so hurry up!'” according to the website Snopes.com.
If you followed the instructions, you then asked to fill out your name, address, e-mail address, date of birth, and phone numbers. You’d be asked to complete a lengthy series of surveys, and commit to paying “reward offers.”
“With social media advertisements becoming more and more popular, it’s likely consumers will see something they like and click on the link without thinking of the repercussions,” said Laura Blankenship, director of community relations for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
3. Watch out for fake e-commerce sites
If you spot a website that’s offering new UGG or Frye books for $50, well, the boots and the site are likely to be fake.
Keep any eye out for red flags, including strange looking URLs and descriptions that do not make sense. Sometimes, crooks will lure you in with an unbelievably good deal.
“Open a separate tab and search the business yourself,” Blankenship said.
“If you have never heard of the retailer or know very little about them, it’s important to look at their reviews and see whether or not they’re a reputable company, especially during the holiday season.”
Be extra careful not to blindly trust emails that appear to be from a well-known retailer or delivery service. Hackers try to impersonate brand names, too.
4. Look out for skimmers
Check out any ATM to look for signs that there might be a skimmer device, which could steal card information. Legitimate ATMs don’t have loose parts.
Take extra care when using a card at a gas station pump, too. Crooks also install skimming devices there, as well.
5. Track your spending
If you didn’t shop for deals on Thanksgiving, call your bank immediately if you spot an odd purchase.
Keep track of your online shopping. Remember what you bought and where you shopped. It can help you spot unauthorized charges.
Massive data breaches continue to happen — such as one that hit British Airways customers in the summer. Stolen data shows up for sale on the dark web quickly. So even if you just got a new credit card number because of an earlier breach, don’t get too comfortable. The new number may get out there, too.
6. Take advantage of gadgets to spot fraud
Ally Bank, for example, has an “Ally Card Controls” app that allows cardholders to keep their debit card active around their phone, or only within a specified region.
So if you’re in Michigan, a transaction could be denied in Texas, for example.
The app allows customers to prevent purchases at specific categories of retailers, such as those selling groceries, fuel, entertainment or travel. Cardholders can disable online shopping to avoid unauthorized purchases, and turn it on instantly if they want to buy something online.
7. Don’t use public Wi-Fi for shopping
Tempting as it is to use downtime at the Starbucks to knock a few items off the list, don’t do it. Your financial information is too vulnerable on public networks.
Cyber Monday is another hot day for cyber crooks.
8. Be extra careful using a debit card
Shoppers are advised to pull out a credit card if they’re shopping online or ordering by phone, instead of a debit card.
If your credit card number is compromised, it’s easier to dispute any charges that you didn’t approve, according to the Better Business Bureau.
A debit card is linked directly to a checking account, so you could have more problems if that number gets hijacked.
Another tip: Use a credit card when buying a big ticket item because a credit card offers more protections if there is a problem with the product or a dispute.
To save money, of course, you don’t want to carry a balance on the credit cards to avoid interest charges.
Contact Susan Tompor: [email protected] or 313-222-8876. Follow Susan on Twitter @Tompor.
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