’Tis the season! Whew, we have made it past Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but there still are 20 shopping days left.
This season also is a busy time for theft. According to the Consumer Sentinel Network, a database of consumer fraud complaints, 71 percent of fraud activity affected people between the ages of 20 and 60, and 27 percent affected those older than 60. It’s relevant that 40 percent of fraud activity was over the phone, while 33 percent was through email.
No one is immune to fraud, but you can take steps to protect yourself.
You never should disclose sensitive information, such as Social Security or bank account numbers, unless you know exactly who is receiving the document and that a secure Internet connection is being used rather than an open Wi-Fi connection or public computer.
When providing information through a website, be sure it is encrypted on each page. Look for the letters “https” on each page address of the site – not just where you sign in. Look for a key symbol or “s” on the “http,” which indicates the page is secure. Treat information such as your Social Security number, credit card numbers and birth date very carefully.
Have absolutely nothing in your wallet or purse that contains a Social Security number, such as a Social Security card, Medicare card or insurance cards. Limit the number of credit cards in your wallet to no more than two or three at most. Gift cards can be used by anyone.
In addition to keeping good tabs on your wallet and being sure packages in your vehicle are out of sight, here are a few tips to help you protect your identification and your money:
When shopping online, avoid using open wireless (such as from a cellphone) and unsecure locations, such as coffee shops, etc.
Be sure you have updated your anti-virus program.
One of the safest ways to pay is by credit card. With most credit cards, you’re protected if the card is used fraudulently later. Don’t forget to check your credit card statement regularly. You also are protected with a debit card, but there is a longer delay in getting stolen funds returned to your account. I use a debit card that is solely for online use, and the account has limited funds in it.
Be sure websites are secure and check URLs to make sure they contain “https” in the address when it is time to enter payment information. Do not leave your credit card details on an unsecure website.
I hope you enjoy your family, friends and traditions this holiday season.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461. Wendy Rice is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.