10 ways to protect yourself from holiday fraud

December 05, 2023

By Alliant Creditu

10 ways to protect yourself from holiday fraud

woman shopping online

Fraudsters and scammers are always on the prowl, but experts say fraud attempts increase about 30 percent during the holiday season. So while you’re taking advantage of holiday shopping deals, fraudsters are looking to take advantage of you to steal your identity and run up charges on your accounts. Follow these tips to help protect yourself from fraud during the holidays.

1. Keep a close eye on your transaction history 

It’s always important to review your account information regularly, but it’s especially critical during the holiday season, when you’re likely spending more than usual. In the event of unauthorized transactions or discrepancies in your account, continual monitoring of your account will help if you need to flag suspicious activity to your bank or credit union.

2. Go mobile

Use Apple Pay, Google Pay or other digital wallets as you cross things off your shopping list. Add your debit and credit cards to your digital wallets to take advantage of the latest forms of encryption protection so no matter if you’re in store or buying online, your personal information is secure. 

3. Ask yourself: Is this legit?

Be aware of scams when purchasing items online or even donating to charities. Does the deal look too good to be true? Is the site asking for irrelevant personal information? Does this charity look legitimate? Ensure you are purchasing from real and secure sites, and make sure you have the most updated anti-virus software just in case. Stay extra cautious of offers from third-party ads, such as ads you see on social media platforms. Being on a legitimate social media platform doesn't automatically make every ad on it legitimate.

4. Verify site security

Before handing over your credit card information to a retailer, always verify that checkout is secure by confirming the URL starts with https://. This means the site is using an SSL certificate to secure data as it passes from the website to the server and keeps it safe from hackers.

5. Set account alerts

Most financial institutions offer customizable transaction alerts via email or text. Setting alerts can help you better manage your account (no more overdraft fees!) while also giving you peace of mind that no one else is accessing your accounts. Want to be alerted about any transaction over $50? Easy. Want to get pinged for every transaction you make with a debit card? Done.

6. Understand your credit card’s fraud protection offerings

Many credit cards offer something called “Zero Liability,” which applies to purchases made in the store, over the phone, online or via a mobile device. If your credit card offers Zero Liability, you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized transactions if you reasonably protected your card and promptly reported that your card was lost or stolen. Check your credit card agreement for more details.

7. Protect your PIN 

Pay attention to your surroundings when using your credit and debit cards in public. The best way to protect your PIN is to shield the keypad anytime you enter your PIN. Also, avoid making your PIN something easy to guess, such as "1234" or your birthyear. Even when following these tips, be on the lookout for ATM skimming devices. Learn how to spot ATM skimming devices 

8. Be wary of delivery scams

Which consumers making countless online orders during the holiday season, scammers are sending texts and emails pretending to be from delivery companies. These texts typically contain a malicious link disguised as a tracking link or a delivery notice. This link will either contain a form to steal your personal information or may automatically attempt to infect your device with malware. If you're expecting a package, use the tracking functionality directly on the delivery companies' website.

9. Only use gift cards as gifts

While gift cards make for convenient gifts, they also make for a convenient way to scam people. They're much harder to track and refund than actual money, so it's important to know the signs of a gift card scam. Scammers will often attempt to get people to pay for ake products, fines, taxes and more with hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of gift cards, often posing as a boss at work, a government agency, etc. Additionally, check to make sure any gift cards you purchase haven't already been opened and keep the receipt just in case.

10. Watch out for other scams

Following recent breaches, scammers are taking advantage of holiday shoppers by claiming to be from financial institutions, asking for your personal information so they can “make sure your information isn’t compromised.” Anyone who contacts you directly asking for your information over the phone, via email or via social media is likely not authorized to do so. Err on the side of caution, do not respond, and proactively reach out to your financial institution to confirm if the call or message you received was legitimate.


Check out these other holiday spending tips:

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