The holidays are a hectic time of the year, and not just for your social calendar. Your credit card joins in on the hustle and bustle as you shop for presents, groceries, and flights online.
As you move down your list, you’re sharing your financial details with each purchase you make. You can trust this exchange of information to be safe, but you are opening yourself to risk.
Instances of fraud surge at this time of year, and your shopping habits could make you a prime target.
While you might be worried about curating the perfect holiday during the hustle and bustle, your cybersecurity should be top of mind throughout the season. Here’s what you can do to remain safe.
Shop Over Secured Networks
With a smartphone in your hand, you can get your shopping done anywhere you get Internet. But you’ll want to think twice about snagging a deal using free Wi-Fi.
The unsecured networks found at coffee shops and shopping centers are easily hijacked by those in the know. It doesn’t take much for an experienced fraudster to hop on the network and eavesdrop on your activity. That includes login credentials and financial info you share to check accounts and make purchases.
Wait until you’re on a secured network you can trust before you do anything financial online. This rule extends beyond shopping to include transferring money, checking bank balances, or paying off loans online.
Strengthen Your At-Home Network
A secured network at home is safer than any public connection, but it may still have some security holes. Before you shop or apply online to borrow money, you’ll want to patch these vulnerabilities:
- Change the default name (or SSID) and password of your router
- Accept router software updates regularly
- Consider using a VPN to encrypt your data
Don’t Use Your Debit Card Online
If you’re worried about wracking up debt this holiday, using your debit card eliminates the temptation of dipping into credit you can’t afford. However, you might want to think twice about using this account online.
When you use a debit card, you share this account’s information with the retailer. If their servers are hit in a cyberattack, all the information someone needs to log into your checking account is exposed. A fraudster could have the keys to this account, including any other savings account, short term personal loans, investments, mortgage, or line of credit attached.
A credit card, on the other hand, is an isolated account. If it’s exposed in a data breach, fraudsters will only have that card’s information — not your entire bank account.
Review Your Financial Statements
To make sure someone hasn’t taken your financials for a ride, you’ll want to check all your accounts. That includes your statements for your checking account as well as any short-term personal loans, credit cards, or line of credit loans you may have.
Do this roughly once a week, keeping your eyes peeled for any transactions you don’t recognize. You’ll also want to check your credit report at least once this season, looking for the following issues:
- Applications for accounts you didn’t submit
- Loans or lines of credit accounts you didn’t open
- Incorrect contact details, account balances, or delinquencies
Exposure in a data breach isn’t guaranteed this holiday, but your risk is higher at this time of year. Not only are you using your credit more often, but fraudsters are working hard to steal information. But you can make yourself less of a target by following this guide.