It’s that time of year again. That’s right: the holidays are just around the corner!
If you’re planning to do some online shopping this year, you’re not alone. According to experts at Deloitte, consumers like you will spend as much as $149 billion online this holiday season. That’s an 18% increase over 2018 spending!
Of course, with that volume of money floating around, there will be some bad actors who try to take advantage.
Online fraudsters—those nasty eCommerce grinches—have a variety of tactics they employ to steal from consumers and businesses. They also know that, with the hectic nature of the holiday season, it’s easier to pull-off attacks without attracting attention. All things considered, it’s little surprise that cybercrime accounted for more than 10% of all online traffic during the 2017 holiday season.
Businesses and financial institutions do what they can to try and identify and prevent fraud attacks. Ultimately, though, you are the most important line of defense against online criminal activity. So, what can you do to protect yourself against fraud? By following these seven simple tips, you position yourself way ahead of the game.
#1. Make Sure the Site’s Legitimate
Fraudsters who engage in a tactic called “phishing” will often create dummy sites designed to look just like popular eCommerce sites. The use URLs with common misspellings (Amason.com, Anazon.com, Amazon.co, etc.), hoping consumers will land on their site by mistake, and end up handing over their sensitive information.
Always double check the URL at the top of your page to ensure you’re on the right site. The same goes for links; before clicking any promotional links in emails or online ads, be sure they’re directing you to the right place.
#2. Use Credit Instead
You may not think there’s much difference between credit and debit. In reality, the two are very different in terms of the fraud protections they offer.
With a credit card, your fraud liability is limited by law to no more than $50. In most cases, your credit card issuer will even waive this, offering a zero-liability arrangement. With debit cards, however, you could be held liable for up to $500 in losses, and that’s only if the fraud is reported within 60 days. Beyond that 60-day window, you could be held responsible for all losses.
#3. Secure Your Network
Never exchange sensitive data across a public Wi-Fi connection. Fraudsters can easily skim any data transferred over a public network, meaning anyone with access to the network could steal your information.
When conducting a transaction, either use your own password-protected internet connection at home, or use your private data via a mobile device. Alternately, you could also use a VPN, which redirects all of your activity online through a secure and private connection.
#4. Never Hand Out Sensitive Information
Your Social Security number, account numbers, birthday…these are all highly-sensitive pieces of information. If they fall into the wrong hands, a fraudster could easily pick up and start doing business on your behalf.
Never give away your data to anyone online. Be cognizant of what information is necessary to conduct your business—card number, expiration date, and CVV code—and never provide more than that.
#5. Sign Up for 3-D Secure
3-D Secure technology works like a PIN code for online purchases. Branded as either Verified by Visa or Mastercard Securecode, this tool is an opt-in service often provided to cardholders free-of-charge.
3-D Secure will activate automatically during online checkout at participating merchants. You’ll be redirected to another page and asked to enter your 3-D Secure passcode to authorize your purchase. While not foolproof, 3-D Secure offers a very useful line of defense against fraudsters.
#6. Review Your Statement
Be diligent about reviewing your credit card statement on a regular basis. If you notice a charge on your statement you don’t recognize, you should fist try to contact the seller in question. When customers report unauthorized transactions, more often than not, they are actually legitimate sales that you might have forgotten, or simply can’t recognize based on the seller’s billing identifier.
If you are unable to contact the seller, or if you still can’t pinpoint the purchase, only then should you reach out to your bank for help.
#7. Get Regular Credit Reports
We’re focused on the holidays, but don’t forget: fraud prevention is a year-round job. That means even after the decorations are down, you still need to be vigilant.
You’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—once every year. We recommend you take advantage of these reports, spreading each one out over the course of the year. This will help you monitor your credit, allowing you to act in the event someone takes out unauthorized lines of credit in your name.