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Keep fraud from ruining your holiday shopping fun.

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. With a few easy preventative steps, you can safeguard your financial information and finances whether you’re shopping online, in-store or on your phone.

1. Fighting fraud starts with protecting 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 internet provider or visit a tech support service, like Geek Squad® or the Apple Genius® Bar. There are also products available that scan your device for viruses and recommend security patches.

2. Slow down and pay attention.

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 whether you’re shopping online or in person, pay attention to your surroundings, who’s asking you for information and why. Don’t give out your personal information without authenticating the source. And keep an eye on your balances — not only on your credit cards, but also Apple Pay®, Venmo and other payment sources — to be alert for suspicious activity.

3. Shop securely.

Avoid making purchases while connected to public Wi-Fi. Hackers often connect to public wireless to prey on others’ devices. Keep your credit card number, Social Security number and other private details safe by avoiding suspicious emails, links and pop-up windows. Be careful what apps you download — you should only download apps from your device’s certified app store, where you can confirm that the publisher is trusted and the app has good security settings.

4. Share with care.

Don’t be tempted by advertisements that your friends and family share on social media, or that you receive via email. If something seems too good to pass up, do some research online to make sure the retailer and deal is legitimate — and go directly to that company’s website to look for the deal. Only shop from trusted retailers’ websites. And verify before you share any potential bargains or information yourself — you don’t want to share anything that’s intentionally created to deceive and mislead.

5. Beware of fake surveys and coupon codes.

Fraudsters will often entice you with an amazing opportunity that requires you to enter sensitive information to redeem it. According to the Better Business Bureau, one of the new ways they are doing this is by setting up phony surveys and fake coupon sites. They may offer you free products, a discount or other reward for participating, but end up taking your full name, address, email and more in the process. Remember, unsolicited text messages and emails are usually not from trustworthy sources. And if the reward is too good to be true (a $100 gift card or 90% discount for a two-minute survey) it probably is. Many scam surveys and coupon sites are very vague about their purpose and who is running them. If you can’t figure out who or where the survey is coming from, don’t take it.

6. Keep your card account up to date.

The FTC recommends you use a credit card when online shopping to receive extra protection for most online purchases. 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 actually needs the information.

7. Know your fraud resources.

During the holidays, you may be shopping in ways that are different from your normal pattern, so it makes it tricky to spot fraud. 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. Consider enrolling in identity theft services to provide account monitoring and peace of mind. And if something looks suspicious, report it.

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 “Important steps to take if your identity is stolen.”

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