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Shopping online is undoubtedly more convenient than visiting a brick and mortar store; however, you could pay dearly if you fall prey to theft or fraud. Online shopping has unsurprisingly been on the rise, and as you can guess so has theft and fraud. According to data by Javelin Strategy & Research, “in 2016, 15.4 million Americans went through the stress that comes from various forms of identity fraud. That’s up from 13.1 million in 2015.” Practicing the following tips will help you deter fraudulent activity and theft when shopping on and offline.

 

Credit vs. Debit

People often think of debit cards and credit cards to be the same form of payment, however, there are key differences that have a major impact when/if your card is compromised. Using a credit card when shopping online instead of a debit card is the best way to protect yourself and your hard-earned money. Liability protections that cover credit card fraud do not always apply to debit cards, which make them a better choice. Thieves can also access your checking account through a debit card, so using a single credit card can limit the damage if this number is stolen because you’re only dealing with one credit card as opposed to tracking down multiple accounts

 

Update & Upgrade Software

 

Keeping your computer’s anti-virus, firewall, and anti-malware software up to date is always worth the investment. Not only does this protect against an online predator stealing your money, but it also does a great job of keeping your system from being hacked. Updating and upgrading your computer software should be done religiously because it’s far less expensive than restoring your whole system when its hacked.

 

Public vs. Private Wi-Fi

Do not make purchases when connected to a public wireless network. Its generally a good idea to avoid public Wi-Fi in the first place, but not making purchases when connected to it is absolutely essential. A good rule to follow is to browse, but never enter any sensitive information on a public network. If you only have access to public Wi-Fi, but still want that extra measure of comfort visit websites prefaced with “https,” not just “http,” make sure it has a secure lock icon, and make sure you connect to the correct public Wi-Fi network.

 

Managing Your Passwords

Although it’s much more convenient to use the same password for your Netflix, Gmail, Facebook, and Pinterest accounts, it is never a good idea. Having a different password for each account is a great way to limit access to your personal information. In the creation of your password, you should avoid using any information someone could learn about you from social media or publicly available information. A great tip in the case of security questions is to make up fake answers that only you would know.

 

Offline Safety

 

Regularly taking an inventory of your wallet or purse is a great idea because it helps you keep track of any missing items. This is especially relevant this time of the year, as holiday shopping often means crowded stores which is a prime opportunity for wallet and purse theft.

Write down your account numbers and appropriate phone numbers associated with canceling your cards. This will come in handy should your wallet or purse be stolen, as it will allow you to quickly contact the correct person. You should also have your identification number written down, as it will be necessary to close down an account. Keeping this information in a safe place will make your life much easier in the event your items are stolen.

 

Your Information Has Been Stolen

Despite all of your efforts your wallet or card has been stolen and used by someone else, so now what do you do? Contact your bank or debit card issuer immediately as well as all the credit card issuers of all the credit cards you carry. Report the loss or theft to the local police as well as the DMV for your driver’s license. You should also report this to the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union to put a fraud alert or a credit freeze on your accounts. This makes it harder for a thief to open up credit lines and run up huge bills on your behalf.

Protect yourself during this season of giving from those who only want to take. Follow these simple tips and avoid the headaches that come with fraud and theft.

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Disclaimer

The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial or investment advice. Kerndt Brothers Bank and/or its partners assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one's reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional when making decisions regarding your financial or investment management.