As consumers, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holiday season and drop our guard when it comes to safe shopping. The increasing balances on credit cards often result in people not checking their statements until after the holiday season. In a rush to make purchases, caution may take a back seat to convenience and the prevalence of goodwill may convince some shoppers that criminals wouldn’t take advantage of the holiday season. Unfortunately, the holiday season is when criminals are often most active.
Here are some tips for safe shopping for consumers.
- Use a credit card if possible. While this topic is too complex for a short blog post the key here is that most people would rather see a fraudulent transaction on a credit card than to have money taken directly from their bank account. It is often easier to recoup the funds due to various card brand rules. All major card brands “guarantee” all transactions. Even if it takes a week or longer to dispute the transaction you do not risk being without needed cash.
- Use your pen not your PIN. If you decide to use a debit card for purchases over the holiday season consider “signing” for the transactions instead of using your PIN. If prompted for a PIN, simply hit cancel and you will be prompted for a signature. It is often much easier to chargeback a fraudulent transaction that is “offline” (signed) as opposed to “online” (PIN based) due to various card brand rules. Also, ensure you read your cardholder agreement as all major credit card (American Express, Visa, MasterCard, JCB) transactions are “guaranteed,” which means if it is fraudulent you will get your money back. This may not be the case in debit card transactions.
- Know your store. There is always temptation to shop for the cheapest prices. During the holiday season fraudsters increase the number of fraudulent shopping sites in an attempt to defraud cardholders. Providing your personal information and private account data to a site that is not known, or to which you have questions about, could result in your card being stolen or resold. All TrustCommerce merchants are carefully vetted. Cardholders can have confidence when shopping with them knowing their data is secure and the merchant is legitimate.
- Check your statements. Check your statements at least weekly. You want to identify any fraudulent transactions as quickly as possible. If your card has been compromised, make sure to contact the issuing bank ASAP to have a new card issued. Unfortunately, some people wait until after the holidays to check their statements only to find that their payment card was compromised weeks ago. This increases the headaches associated with disputing the transactions.
- Keep your card safe. While this is a sensitive subject, the majority of credit card fraud occurs through what is known as “friendly fraud”. Family members, close friends, those that may work around the house and others “borrow” a card and go on a shopping spree. It is important that you always maintain possession of your card or keep it secure. When shopping do NOT leave your purse or your wallet in your vehicle! Every year people return to their vehicles to find windows smashed and all their presents and purses/wallets stolen.
Remember—the holiday season is the peak season for fraudsters. Being vigilant will reduce the chance that you become a victim. By following the short rules listed above, you can reduce your risk of being victimized and enjoy your holiday season.