Keep your financial information under wraps and shop safer this holiday season

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The holidays are a great time to shop for friends and family (and maybe yourself, too!). From late November through the end of January, consumer spending notoriously ramps up as shoppers prepare for seasonal gift giving and celebrations.

But with every transaction, shoppers open the door to potential threats of credit and identity fraud. In fact, online fraud attempts in the U.S. increased 22% during the 2017 holiday shopping season alone, according to a report from ACI Worldwide.

Payment security measures continue to evolve to keep up with new risks, but it’s crucial that consumers do all they can on their own to protect their financial information on a daily basis. Whether it’s in store or online, here are some tips to help you shop safer this holiday season and all year long.

Be aware of your surroundings in store.
Keep an eye on fellow shoppers who seem to be standing “too close” to you at ATMs or self-service kiosks. “Shoulder surfing,” or the act of peeking over someone’s shoulder to spy on PINs, credit card numbers, and other secure information, is a “low-tech” way identity thieves attempt to steal critical data. Keep this information out of sight and concealed during transactions.

Use caution when texting to receive coupons.
During the holidays, most retailers have special sales to commemorate the season and to get shoppers in the door. But identity thieves can use “text to save” deals to masquerade as seemingly legitimate opportunities to snag shoppers’ financial information. Double check the source to confirm authenticity before texting a response.

Don’t send secure information over “free Wi-Fi” connections.
It’s convenient to connect to free public Wi-Fi when you’re on the go. Just try to be selective about which Wi-Fi you use and make sure the connection is secure before accessing the internet. Better yet, wait until you get home and have access to your private internet connection before making any purchases or checking sensitive financial information.

Only shop online with the retailers you trust.
Stick to the brands and retailers with reputable online stores—and fully vet any new online storefronts before making purchases. Do some of your own reconnaissance; search for the seller online to see how they rank, or check out their reviews on a consumer site like Yelp. Trustworthy online retailers will also encrypt your sensitive financial and personal information, and offer a variety of secure payment options.

Monitor online bank and credit account statements daily.
Look out for small-but-suspicious transactions on checking and credit card statements. Identity thieves might test the waters with some trivial purchases before going for something big. Flagging these as soon as possible can stop the situation before it escalates.

Keep these tips in mind and make this year’s holiday shopping season a safer one. Check out more of Comenity’s resources to help build and maintain better financial habits.

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