Holiday Shoppers Beware
The holidays are in full-swing and it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Every day offers a new opportunity to create memories with your little ones that will last a lifetime, but the holiday to-do list is undeniably long – and undeniably expensive. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend almost $30 billion this holiday season. Whether it’s grabbing gifts for loved ones or decking the halls with holiday decor, it’s easy to let your spending snowball (no pun intended).
However, when we think of holiday spending, we tend to focus on budgeting — but that’s not all that matters! Our seasonal uptick in spending can leave us vulnerable to financial scammers. Up to 9 million Americans per year are victims of identity theft with 33% of adults in the U.S. having experienced identity theft. This number is more than two times the global average. With statistics this high, you can never be too safe. Especially considering all the financial responsibilities of being a parent. The holidays are stressful enough without having to worry about financial security.
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Are you doing enough to keep your sensitive financial data safe? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you safeguard your financial information this holiday season.
Shop from Websites You Trust
Before adding something to your online cart for your little tyke or princess, take a look at the web address bar. If the retailer’s website is secure, it’s harder for criminals to gain access to your personal data. To check whether the site is secure, look at the URL. If it starts with “https://”, the site is secure. If it starts with “http://”, you’re shopping on an unsecured connection – and putting your financial data at risk. If you need to shop from a site that doesn’t offer a secure version of the browser, consider searching around to see if there are other retailers that sell the product with a secure version of their site.
Skip the Public WiFi
Motherhood is busy enough – around the holidays, motherhood can feel like a mad dash marathon. If you’re like me, you probably don’t have a lot of time to spend browsing the web for Christmas gifts from the comfort of your couch. If you plan on shopping online while out and about, avoid using public WiFi. Completing sensitive transactions on a public network puts you at risk, as it’s easier for thieves to intercept data, including your credit card number and passwords. Consider adding data for a personal hotspot on your plan during the holiday season if you know you’ll be conducting a significant amount of shopping away from home.
Double-Check Those “Too Good to Be True” Deals
We all know (and love!) the rush of finding a great discount but trust your instincts. If something looks a little too good to be true, it might be just that. Scammers will use emails to advertise hot buys that are hard to find during the holidays; steer clear of sites you don’t recognize or ads that seem to be offering unrealistic discounts. In some cases, you may complete your order, provide your information, and never receive your package – the classic bait and switch. Always check the URL structure of the page you’re visiting when you are considering making a purchase. If anything looks fishy in the URL structure, then you may need to do some additional investigating before completing your purchase.
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Keep an Eye on Your Statements
Track your spending by regularly checking your statements. If anything seems off, or you spot charges that don’t ring a bell, contact your credit card company immediately. The sooner you spot fraudulent charges, the better. A good rule of thumb is to check your statements at least once a month but it may be wise to check your charges every two weeks during the holiday season. One benefit of checking your charges more frequently is that you’ll have a better memory regarding your purchases. We all know how many things there are to keep track of as parents. If you don’t check your statements as frequently, it may be difficult to remember what your purchases were for and you may spend additional time trying to track down what the expense was.
Shop with Cash
If you’re shopping in-store, consider doing so with cash. This shopping tactic does double-duty. First, by shopping with a finite amount of money, you’re less likely to overspend the way you would with a credit card. Second, shopping with cash means keeping your credit card information out of the hands of wily scammers. Many major retailers have experienced data breaches in the past 2 years (19 cases since the start of 2018), so it’s wise to curb your credit spending when shopping at a brick and mortar. Another option to this method, if you don’t feel like having large amounts of cash on your person, is to pre-load Visa gift cards for spending. This can also help protect your data and abide by your budget without having to carry cash on you.