‘Tis the season for shopping, and whether that means buying in stores on online, consumers should keep fraud in mind in the wake of data breaches at several big-name retailers this year.
The Capital One Holiday Survey found that more than half of the people surveyed will be shopping in malls and local stores, while 36% will be will be shopping online to find the best deals.
When it comes to paying for gifts, credit cards (55%) still top the list of options, followed closely by cash (52%), with checks and debit cards (24%) coming in last.
Better safe than sorry
Capital One also has some tips for consumers that can help protect them no matter where they are shopping or how they are paying.
First things first, before hitting the store, clean out your wallet and take only the credit and debit cards you’re going to use. And never take your Social Security card along.
When you get to the register or the ATM, take a good look to make sure there isn’t a skimming device attached. If it looks damaged or odd, move on to another one. It’s not worth taking the chance. Skimming devices make it easy for thieves to access your accounts.
Identity thieves can also use smart phones to take a quick pic of your credit card or copy your information, so keep your wits about you, and know who is around you.
Also cover your PIN when typing it in, close out your ATM sessions, and shred receipts not needed.
Virtual security is a holiday must
But what if you’re shopping online? There are things you can do here too, including:
- Update your anti-virus and anti-spyware software, scan your computer at least once a month, and password protect your wireless router.
- Make sure you’re using a secure online portal — look for merchants who are part of the seal-of-approval program, including TRUSTe, Verisign or the Better Business Bureau.
- Make sure the website your using is legitimate — do a search online before using it by putting the word “scam” or “fraud” in front of the website name to see if anything comes up. Go old school and call their number to see if someone answers too.
- Keep your account information private – if emails or instant messages appear asking for you information for verification purposes take a pass. These are “phishing” scams and the information they get can be used to make purchases using your account.
- Use credit cards rather than sending cash or wiring money.
- Print out all receipts and records.
No matter where or when you’re shopping, there are some things you can do to protect your account year-round, including: signing up for security alerts by banks and credit card companies, checking your credit and debit card statements for unauthorized charges, keeping a file of all your bank and credit card information, and reviewing your credit report. When you’re done with paper records shred them.
The Capital One Holiday Survey was conducted between November 7th and 14th by Wakefield Research. They interviewed 1,000 adults ages 18 and up in the U.S via email and an online survey.