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5 Ways to Protect Your Financial Information This Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again and as much as you might dread it, the holiday shopping season can’t be avoided. Whether you’re planning to head out to the stores on Black Friday or do all of your shopping online, keeping your financial details safe is a must. Before you get caught up in the holiday rush, it’s important to make sure you’re following these rules to protect your accounts.

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1. Be on the Lookout for Email Phishing Scams

During the holidays, everybody’s looking for the best deal on all the hottest items. Identity thieves attempt to cash in on this by targeting shoppers with email scams. If you receive an unsolicited email from a retailer promising a deep discount on something on your shopping list, it’s a good idea to think twice before you jump on the deal. Clicking on what looks like an authentic link can open the door to hackers who are trying to steal your information.

2. Stick With Secured Connections for Online Purchases

5 Ways to Protect Your Financial Information This Holiday Season

Online shopping is a lot more convenient than visiting store after store. But it’s important to be careful about where you shop online. Using public WiFi to complete your purchases is a big no-no because an unsecured connection creates a window that identity thieves can crawl through.

If you must use your mobile device to shop while you’re out and about, it’s best to stick with apps from secure sources and use your cellular provider’s network. If you’re on a laptop, you might want to consider paying for a VPN service so you have access to a private network when you’re using WiFi.

Related Article: 10 Tips for Secure Online Transactions

3. Downsize Your Wallet

Mobile payment services like Apple Pay offer their users an added layer of protection and eliminate the need to carry around plastic cards. Instead of swiping your card, you load your account information into Apple Pay and use your mobile device to complete the transaction using a near-field communication antenna. If you don’t have an iPhone, you can do the same thing with Android Pay.

4. Dip Your Chip Cards Whenever Possible

5 Ways to Protect Your Financial Information This Holiday Season

EMV chip cards are the wave of the future and if you’ve been in a store lately, you may have noticed that many payment terminals have been updated to accommodate them. Chip cards feature an embedded microchip that stores all of your account information. When you make a purchase with the card, you “dip” it into the card reader instead of swiping it.

Dipping the card creates a unique transaction code that can’t be duplicated. If someone were to hack into a retailer’s payment system, they wouldn’t be able to use your card information to manufacture a copy. Just keep in mind, however, that you only get this added security when you dip your cards. If you’re in a store that only has a swipe terminal or you’re using it online, the chip’s protections won’t apply.

Related Article: Will EMV Chip Cards Make Shopping Any Safer?

5. Monitor Your Accounts

When you’re using your debit card or accumulating credit card debt during the holidays, it’s easy for identity thieves to sneak in a transaction under your nose if you’re not paying attention. Checking your monthly statements is a smart move but you might need to do more than that to keep an eye on your accounts and protect your financial information.

If you have mobile banking, for instance, you can set up an email or text alert any time a transaction is processed. The BillGuard app can also be used to monitor your checking and credit card accounts for suspicious activity.

The Bottom Line

Vigilance is key during the holiday season and it’s important to be as proactive as possible about protecting your financial information. The more effort you put into stopping fraud in its tracks, the safer you’ll feel.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/master1305, ©iStock.com/szefei, ©iStock.com/Tommaso Tagliaferri

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake has been writing about the nuts and bolts of personal finance for nearly a decade. She is an expert in investing, retirement and home buying topics. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, Business Insider, CBS News, U.S. News & World Report and Investopedia. As a homeschooling mom of two, she's always looking for ways to make the most of every dollar.
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