Holiday shopping and fraud awareness tips

HolidayShoppingHoliday shopping and fraud go together like Christmas trees and presents. It’s hard to think of one without the other.

Consumers can protect themselves this season by remaining vigilant and not letting down their guards. Sure, it’s a busy and hectic season, but fraudsters count on shoppers becoming lax and rushed so that they accidentally divulge vital personal information.

Frank Petras, banking center manager at Fort Bend’s Comerica Bank, recommends the following fraud prevention tips, especially during the holidays:

1. Protect Receipts. Keep receipts in your pocket to prevent them from being lost or stolen. Even though most receipts cut off credit card numbers, the customer’s name is still printed. Using your name, a resourceful thief can access readily available information on the Internet to find out more about you and commit a crime.

2. Use Cards Smartly. Keep cards, PINS and account information in secure locations. Write down each credit card’s number, expiration date, security code and toll-free number and store them safely in a fireproof box or safe. Sign the back of credit cards with “See ID,” which protects your signature and prompts merchants to ask for your picture identification. Carry only a few cards.

3. Stash Wallets. Men should keep wallets in pockets until getting ready to pay. For extra security, men can store wallets in their front pockets. Women should carry small purses that can be kept close to the body. Fanny packs can also help keep wallets secure.

4. Shop Online Safely. When online, ensure that you’re shopping with reputable dealers who runs reputable sites. Reputable companies only ask for personal details once a transaction has been initiated. Don’t click on any links or “deals” that may direct you to an unsafe website. Criminals sometimes use this approach to gain access to your personal financial information. For a secure connection, look for a closed padlock located in your browser or at the bottom of your web page or look for a “safe” address that reads https:// instead of just http://.

5. Monitor Your Credit. If you’re buying a lot of different items at numerous stores, consider purchasing a short term credit monitoring service for a small monthly fee. Upon signing up, you will receive email alerts, text messages and snail mail alerts for any new activity going on with your credit cards.

“In addition, beware of special holiday offers or requests for personal or financial information via e-mail, text message, phone or web site for interactions you didn’t initiate,” says Petras. “If you’re suspicious about an information request, verify it by calling the number on the company’s website or billing statement.”

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