Nine ways to protect your identity and money during the holidays
Wade Barnes | 12/18/2015, 9:48 a.m.
- Keep your Social Security number on lockdown. Don’t be afraid to ask the question, “why is this necessary?” Especially during the holiday season, thieves may try to have success in stealing information from people who are moving too fast and that are blinded by their urgency to cross things off their shopping list. Always take the time to stop, question, and assess any situation where your Social Security number is required.
- Guard your information online as much as you would in person. You wouldn’t give your credit card number to any random person on the corner if they asked for it, would you? Then why be so quick to dish out those digits online? When doing your online shopping this holiday season, always evaluate the website to check for legitimacy. Ensure that the website is encrypted (look for the green lock logo and URL starting with https://) and be sure the merchant asks for the security code on the back of the card. If not, you may want to do some further research to confirm the legitimacy of the site.
- Don’t over share on social media. Unfortunately these days, something as simple as posting a picture of your holiday purchases can help a hacker in their efforts to steal your information. Always be aware that the information you’re posting on the internet can not only be seen by the friends and family you intended, but also strangers and hackers that can be trying to gain more information about you and your spending habits. Don’t over share and especially don’t share photos of any receipts or evidence of a transaction-no matter how good the deal was!
- Stay on your guard when giving to charity. December is a great time to give money or gifts to your favorite charity or nonprofit, but don’t let your valiant effort to help those in need go to waste by giving to a bogus collector. Always be sure to do your research and validate the legitimacy of anyone you’re planning to donate to. If you’re donating money online, always navigate to the payment portal directly through the organization’s official website, not a third-party.
- Utilize the EMV technology you’ve been given. By now, you’ve probably noticed the new credit and debit cards you’ve gotten in the mail have an EMV/chip card in them. When you’re out and about doing holiday shopping, always check to see if the merchant
offers EMV compliant equipment. The cashier may not always ask, so take initiative yourself and only choose to “swipe” if you have no other option.
- Stay aware of your surroundings. Thieves and fraudsters find the easiest targets in those who are unaware of their surroundings or not paying attention to their belongings. When you’re out in a busy mall or at a crowded holiday event, keep your personal belongings close and accounted for. Unfortunately, no public location should be trusted when it comes to leaving your belongings unattended. Always be aware and on your guard!
- Traveling to see family? Communicate with your bank. It’s important to keep your bank informed when you are planning to go out of town. We recommend the customers let us know any time they are going out of state, and definitely any time they are planning to leave the country. This helps us monitor and secure your accounts and know that the transactions being made overseas, or across the country, are legitimate.
- Use your online banking tools. Always stay on top of how much money is coming in and how much is going out. It can be hard to keep track around the holidays when it seems like there are endless purchases being made, but today’s online and mobile banking tools make it so easy to stay on top of your finances. Even on the go, there's no reason not to be able to catch fraud as soon as it happens. Using online banking and mobile apps can also help you stay on task with your holiday budget.
- Check your credit score. Take advantage of the fact that you can get a free credit check from each one of the three credit bureaus— Equifax, Experian and TransUnion— once per year. That means you can check it three times a year, for free! I often recommend checking it at the beginning of the year, sometime in the middle, maybe over the summer, and then again around the holiday season when spending often ramps up again. If you are familiar with what your credit score should look like, you’ll be able to notice any drastic changes. Big shifts in your score may be caused by intruders in your accounts and stopping the damage before it’s too late is crucial.
As Senior Vice President and Director of Retail Banking, Wade Barnes oversees 1st Mariner Bank’s retail division and operations across the bank’s 16 Baltimore-area locations and call contact center. Born and raised in Baltimore, Wade lives in Loch Raven Village, where he is active member of his community association. Wade also volunteers his time and expertise in Baltimore area schools, helping students gain financial literacy skills.