Young couple holding shopping bags on busy street looking through storefront window.

Six ways to prevent fraud during holiday shopping.

It’s go time. The holidays are here, and you’ve got loved ones to shop for. Unfortunately, fraudsters are ready to take advantage of the busy shopping season, too. Fortunately there are some easy, preventive steps you can take to help secure your financial information this season. Whether you're shopping online, in the store or on your smartphone, these simple strategies will make you less vulnerable to attacks – and allow you to focus on finding the perfect gift.

  1. Be alert.
    Criminals tend to target holiday shoppers because they’re busy, distracted and shopping more than usual. It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday bustle, but be sure to be mindful. No matter where you’re shopping, pay attention to your surroundings, who’s asking you for information and why. Don’t give your financial information to anyone you don’t know and trust.

  2. Err on the side of caution.
    If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Fraudsters will often entice you with an amazing opportunity that requires you to enter sensitive information to redeem it. Keep your credit card number, social security number and other private details safe by avoiding suspicious emails, links and pop-up windows. If something seems too good to pass up, do some research online to make sure the retailer and deal is legitimate.

  3. Protect your devices.
    Before you tackle your shopping list, make sure your computer and mobile phone’s software are up-to-date. Check security software, your operating system, computer programs and apps for any updates that need to be installed. For help, call a representative from your provider or visit a tech service. There are also products available that scan your device for viruses and recommend security patches.

  4. Practice safe surfing.
    Shopping online? Check the URL of the website you’re using to make sure it’s secure. If it starts with “https” (rather than “http”), it’s using a secure connection. Avoid making purchases while connected to a public wireless hotspot that doesn’t require a password. Hackers often connect to public wireless to prey on others’ devices.

  5. Keep your card account up to date.
    If your debit or credit card is set to expire soon, you may be receiving a new one from your bank. Be sure to activate the new card when it arrives. In the meantime, be careful of fraudsters posing as a bank representative. If someone calls you representing themselves as a bank employee, you may prefer to call your bank’s contact line to verify your bank is in need of the information.

  6. Know your resources.
    Find out from your bank what features or policies are available to help keep you protected. Get set up with suspicious activity alerts to help keep a close eye on your account. Know what steps to take if someone tries to use your card information.

Address these important issues early on this holiday season to give yourself peace of mind and allow you to focus on what you do best – making loved ones’ faces light up. If you are the target of a fraud attempt, follow the steps covered in “What to do if your identity is stolen.”