Holiday Protection Tips
The Holiday season should be about family, friends, and god cheer, not headaches at the hands of scammers.
Epcor, a leader in the education space of payment fraud mitigation, shares their top three suggestions for fraud protection this holiday season.
- Do Not Share Your Debit Card with Anyone.
Asking a trusted friend or family member to run an errand or put gas in your car may seem simple enough, but unfortunately, it can lead to one of the more common friendly fraud scenarios, including instances where the friend uses your card for their own personal gain. Another common scenario is using your debit card to purchase a game or app on a device belonging to someone else. If the information is saved in the device, the holder of the device may unintentionally purchase more games or applications with your banking information or credit card.
- Take Only What You Need.
Before heading out to the mall, clean out your purse or wallet, taking only the required identification and card or two you will need to do your shopping. If your wallet (or purse) is lost or stolen, this will limit your losses and entities to contact. Never leave your belongings unattended, even in your shopping cart as you turn your head to look at an item. Criminals are always watching for you to be distracted so they can snag your prized possessions. Bonus: taking the bare minimum will keep you from straining your back with a loaded purse or wallet while carrying all those extra packages – now you’re protecting your bank and your back!
- Check Your Accounts.
Thanks to the power of technology, it’s easy to check our bank account balances regularly and on the go. Notifying your financial institution in a timely manner will help minimize loss and frustration. Checking your account balance may also lessen the chance of overdrawn funds by keeping a closer eye on your funds.
- Monitor your account. Use online and mobile banking to keep an eye on your transactions, especially during the holidays. Notify the bank right away if there’s any fraudulent activity.
- Beware of phishing scams. During the holidays, criminals will create a fake email for a deal that’s too good to be true. If you click on any links within the email, you may be downloading malware onto your computer or you may be asked for payment information that could lead to fraud.
- Limit large sums of cash. Even though we’ve seen financial crime migrate from physical to cyber, customers should be careful not to carry around large sums of cash when shopping. A bank will do its best to make you whole if there’s fraud against your account. If cash is stolen, your money is gone.
- Secure your internet connection. If shopping online, make sure you do so from a password protected Wi-Fi network. Never access online banking from a public Wi-Fi network.
- Shop safely. Before making an online purchase, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
- Make a list and a budget. Include incidentals, like cards, wrapping paper and eating out.
- Price Shop. Check out websites that compare prices for items sold online, and at stores in your area.
- Look for rebates. Some can be redeemed at checkout, but most require you to send documentation to the manufacturer to get your rebate.
- Make sure the scanned price is right. Overcharges cost you money and time, especially if you don’t notice them right away.
- Consider customer reviews carefully. The law says reviewers should disclose their connection to a company, but not all of them do. Before you buy anything based on a review, search online for information from sources you trust. Compare reviews from a variety of websites.
- Giving jewelry? Take some time to learn the terms used in the industry so you can get the best quality and value.
- If you use a mobile device or computer to shop for deals, be aware that some unexpected emails, texts or posts may lead to fraudulent sites claiming bargains on brand name products.
- Save receipts. When you’re shopping online, keep copies of your order number, the refund and return policies, shipping costs and warranties.
- Billed for merchandise that wasn’t received? Here’s what to do.
- If money’s tight, consider layaway. You typically make a deposit and pay over time; the retailer holds the merchandise until you’ve paid for the item in full.
- Have packages delivered to a secure location. If you won’t be home, have them delivered to work, or see if a neighbor can be on the look-out for deliveries. Consider requiring a signature for delivery — or look for options to pick up your shipment at a local store or mailing center.
American Bankers Association highlighted seven tips to help consumers minimize their holiday spending debt:
- Plan ahead. Before you start shopping, develop a realistic budget for holiday expenses. Figure out your bottom-line number and set aside holiday cash in increments throughout the year. If you need to use your credit card, think about what you can afford to pay back in January.
- Keep track of other costs. Don’t forget costs beyond gifts, like postage, gift wrap, decorations, greeting cards, food, travel and charitable contributions. Keep in mind the end of the year is a time when large annual or semi-annual costs like car insurance, life insurance and property taxes arise.
- Make a list and check it twice. Keep your gift list limited to family and close friends, noting how much you want to spend on each. If you’re donating to charities, factor in the total amount you plan to donate and how much each charity will receive.
- Shop early and space out purchases. Avoid shopping while rushed or under pressure, which can lead to overspending. Make sure to comparison shop online first, or download an app that lets you compare prices before you buy anything in a store. Before you head to the cashier (or online checkout), make sure your purchase is within the budget you set.
- Avoid impulsive spending decisions. Finding a spectacular sale on something you’ve been wanting can easily throw you off course. Stay strong and stick to your budget. Don’t be blinded by limited-time incentives geared toward getting you to spend more.
- Use credit wisely. Limit the use of credit for holiday spending. If you must use credit, use only one card—preferably the one with the lowest interest rate—and leave the rest at home. Pick a date when you can pay off your holiday credit card bills, and commit to paying off the balance by that time. Be sure to check statements for unauthorized charges and report them immediately.
- Save your receipts and get acknowledgements for charitable donations. Not only will you need receipts for possible returns, you’ll need them to keep track of what you’ve spent and to compare with your credit card statement. Knowing how much you spent will help you plan for next year, too. Keeping receipts or acknowledgement letters for charitable donations is a must if you want to receive tax deductions in the spring.
Donating to your favorite cause can be fulfilling, but it’s important to ensure that your gift reaches the intended source.
- Give to an Established Charity Unfortunately, there are fraudulent charities that will take advantage of your goodwill. To avoid this situation, ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. A legitimate charity will give you information about their mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax deductible. Find a charity with a proven track record for providing aid.
- Designate Your Gift Some charities allow you to specify exactly where your gift is headed, either to a specific orphanage, to purchase school supplies or to a geographic area in need of relief. By designating or earmarking your gift, you control where your donation goes and whom it helps.
- A Proactive Giver is a Smart Giver Wise givers don't give on an impulse or to the first organization that comes along. Smart givers take time to identify the causes important to them. Contact a charitable organization, find out their mission and what type of aid and programs they offer. Work with charities that have targeted outcomes for their giving.
- Benefits to You A donor's primary motivation may be altruism, but everyone knows there are great tax benefits for those who give. A donation to a qualified organization may entitle you to a charitable contribution deduction. Remember a contribution to a qualified charity is deductible only in the year in which it is paid, and all charities do not qualify for a charitable contribution deduction. Always ask for a receipt and save them for tax time.
- Consider Giving Your Time Four out of five charities report using volunteers. Volunteers are the foundation of many charitable organizations. If you can't afford to donate money, consider donating your time. Common volunteer duties include: stuffing envelopes, feeding animals, tutoring, building homes, serving as a museum docent, counseling those in crisis, selling tickets or answering phone calls.
The FTC has seen a spike of complaints about online retailers who didn’t deliver goods when they said they would, or didn’t deliver them at all. Here are a few tips to help make your online shopping merry and bright.
- Do your research. Use search engines to find out more about a product, brand or seller. Type the name into a search engine with words like “review” “complaint” or “scam.”
- Read reviews from other people, experts and columnists. They can give you an idea of how a product performs. Don’t put all your trust in any one review. Some reviews are based on testing by independent experts, others are from people who purchased the product. Both types can be useful.
- Check the terms of the deal, including delivery dates and refund policies. Can you return the item for a full refund if you’re not satisfied? Who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees? When will you get your order? Can you pay extra for faster delivery? Federal law requires sellers to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date if no specific date is promised. Many sites offer tracking options that let you see where your purchase is in the delivery chain, and when you can expect it to arrive.
- Look for contact information. Several sites that generated complaints to the FTC had little or no information on how to get in touch with the company. If you don’t see a phone number or email address, consider it a red flag and take your business elsewhere.