Thursday, December 11, 2014

4 Important Ways to Protect yourself during Holiday Shopping Season

As everyone knows the holiday shopping season is upon us.  With the holiday shopping season most people will receive anywhere from ten to one hundred or more emails a day advertising new products, sales, and gift ideas.  All of this email can be overwhelming, and distracting, leaving us more vulnerable.  The list below discusses four things to keep in mind during the holiday shopping season to help protect your identity, data, and user accounts.
  1. Use a single credit card for all holiday purchases
  2. While this may sound counter-intuitive at first because using a single card everywhere puts the card at greater risk, using one card ensures only one card is at risk.  If credit card fraud does happen, and all of the purchases were made on a single card, then:

    • The compromised card is known and no time needs to be wasted researching which card is affected, and can instead be used to find which charges are fraudulent.
    • Only one credit card company needs to be contacted about the fraud.
    • Any secondary credit cards can still be used for everyday purchases and necessities rather than multiple cards being tied up and unusable at the same time.
    • Only a single credit card needs to be replaced.
    • The amount of time spent setting up automatic bill payments all over again with the new credit card is less.  When possible, use a credit card without automatic payments set against it for holiday shopping.

  3. Use multiple user account and password combinations
  4. If everyone on your block had the same house key and one person lost their keys, everyone on the block would immediately be at risk for theft.  This same principle applies to anyone using the same user id and password combination to access multiple online accounts.  If someone has compromised the credentials to an online account, they may have also accessed browser history, computer files, or other revealing information about online behavior.  Each of these puts information and accounts at risk when account credentials are reused.  Instead, use different user id's and multiple complicated passwords.  For more information, read our post on how to create effective passwords and reduce your exposure of being hacked.

  5. Go directly to merchant websites
  6. Emails from merchants you often visit, purchase from, or sign up for email notifications from will usually be safe.  Emails from unfamiliar merchants should be assessed more carefully.  If an email offers something too good to be true, deleting the email instead of opening it is the safest thing you can do.  Try going directly to the merchant website to see if the special is legitimate rather than clicking through the email.  Opening an email to find the merchant's website is not necessary, simply put the company name into any search engine.

  7. If the event of fraud, contact merchant support and the credit card company 
  8. Sometimes fraud happens even when every possible safety measure has been followed.  This can happen when a merchant experiences fraud on their end, whether by a security hole or an inside job.  This type of fraud is often noticed when an email confirmation is received from an order you never placed, or a charge showing up on a credit card.  When this happens, contact the credit card company immediately.  Be aware, if the charge is in a "pending" state, the charge cannot be cancelled because it technically does not exist, but it is always good to notify the credit card company anyway as it helps them look for patterns of fraud.

    After contacting the credit card company, it is important to also contact the merchant company.  The sooner you contact the merchant, the less likely the offender will get what they ordered on your account.  These calls are usually very quick, and for five minutes of time it is worth keeping people committing fraud from stealing from companies.  When people steal, those costs often trickle down to the consumer.

The holiday season should be filled with joy, family, and memory making times.  The last thing anyone should be forced to waste time on is fraud or identity theft.  Following the four steps above is not full proof, as nothing is full proof.  However, these steps will definitely reduce the risks against your data and identity.

Happy Holidays!

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