Take a look at the calendar – the holidays are slipping up on us and with them are the thieves hoping to do the same: slip up on unsuspecting shoppers with their wallets and credit cards within reach and ready to spend big. Their goal, of course, is to separate those consumers from their cash and credit cards. There are things you can do, though, to better protect yourself. Keep reading as we outline our 2012 holiday safety shopping tips.
Did you know that your odds increase by 20% by the time November rolls around of having financial documents such as your credit cards stolen? Not only that, but we’re also more likely to lose our checkbooks, credit cards and cash during the last two months of the year than at any other time. We’re frazzled, rushed and simply not being as aware of our surroundings as we ordinarily are.
The good news is that if we’re quick to realize what’s happened and if we’re able to notify our banks or credit card companies, we’re much more likely to not lose any money as a result of any fraudulent spending. That said, there are no guarantees and in some instances, we may face losing up to $50 of any charges made on our cards – and if you carry more than a couple of cards, those $50 hits could add up. If it’s your debit card that’s stolen, you could be hit with even higher fees – up to $500 after two days of not reporting it and if you don’t notice it for six months, you may not be able to recoup any of your losses.
It should also be noted the 2009 CARD Act could play a role in those dynamics, though. It depends a lot on whether you use a bank or a credit union, whether it’s a debit card associated with your checking account or a prepaid debit card (which may not offer any protection at all). That said, ultimately, if it’s anything to do with your bank accounts, the final call rests on the banks. Remember, too, the potential of being hit with NSF fees (which most banks are more than happy to waive), but it can still cause a lot of problems. Your credit cards offer much more protection and fewer risks of having out of pocket expenses.
This year is a lot different than what we saw last year. The Occupy movement was in full swing as protesters were gearing up to picket various banks for their fee increases. Those efforts paid off for consumers, regardless of whether you agreed with the movement or not. We’re far more likely to find willing card companies if we discover our wallets or worse, our ID, has been stolen.
So what can you do to lessen the odds of becoming a victim?
Don’t carry all of your credit cards with you when you shop. Especially the Black Friday and other busy holiday shopping days, it’s a paradise for thieves. If you carry a purse, be sure to keep it zipped or latched. That seems like an obvious tip, but next time you’re in the supermarket, take a look around at the women whose purses are laid open, often with their wallets in easy view. And speaking of wallets, consider storing your credit card and debit card in another location. The thieves aren’t necessarily aiming for a woman’s handbag – it’s difficult to hide; instead, they’re looking for a way to swoop in and steal the smaller wallets.
If you do notice your cards have been stolen, contact your card company immediately. The sooner you get it reported, the less damage a thief can do. Not only that, but you’ll want to get the ball rolling for a new credit card to be issued to replace the one that was stolen.
For all those online shoppers, there are a few ways to stay safer as you’re doing your midnight shopping. Be sure the site you’re on has protections in place that will protect your credit card information, address and other information safe as it’s being transmitted. Also, only shop those sites you know and trust. Avoid clicking links in emails, too. Instead, point your browser to the site you’re looking for. Too many times, we receive legitimate looking emails that mirror the kind of emails we receive from our favorite retailers; unfortunately, it’s become increasingly difficult to differentiate the legitimate emails from those concocted by online thieves. Better safe than sorry.
So what are your go-to holiday shopping safety tips? Share them with our readers and together we can make all of our shopping experiences safer through the holidays. Of course, after the bills begin arriving in January, you’re on your own.