While payment card theft is a year-round problem, criminals take particular advantage of the rush of the Holiday Season.
Rushed, enthusiastic shoppers are less likely to take notice of phony URLs or payment card skimmers. Here are a few ways you can stay ahead of the criminals this season and safeguard your card:
1. Shield the keypad.
Card skimmers are camouflaged credit card theft devices, and they appear in droves just before high traffic shopping days. Many skimmers also record your transaction via video in order to gain your PIN and/or zip code.
Simply shielding the keypad with one hand while you key with the other is an effective method to keep criminals from having a complete data set to sell.
2. Cross-check the URL before clicking.
This shopping season, train yourself to be suspicious of the emails hitting your inbox—even those "from" trusted vendors. Phishing is startlingly effective, because even one click can give hackers access to your device. From there, hackers have a number of ways to gain sensitive information without alerting you to their presence.
This secure URL includes 2 verifications of an SSL certificate: https and the company's name.
Secondly, don't enter your credentials (username/password/address/phone/credit card info) into any e-commerce site unless you recognize the SSL symbol in your browser's URL address bar. Also check for close misspellings of the merchant's usual domain.
3. Run through your network & device security.
In addition to confirming your anti-virus software is up to date on your computer (and mobile phone), check to confirm your network is as secure as possible.
- Set a secure wi-fi password.
- Ensure that all Internet of Things (IoT) devices connected to your network also have secure passwords. (NEVER leave the admin password on any wireless device.)
- Change your router password, if you never have before. (You'll most likely have to search for directions for your particular device. Example: NETGEAR Home Router)
4. Do an e-commerce password and account cleanse.
Save the juice cleanse for January but do cleanse your online shopping accounts and passwords.
- Delete inactive accounts and update accounts that still use an old email address.
- Update your passwords so that they are both memorable to you and unique from one another. (Never reuse the same password across any accounts tied to your personal/payment information.) Here's an easy way to create great passwords.
- Check out as a guest.
- Only allow vendors to store payment methods with limits and/or fraud protection, such as PayPal or a major Credit Card. Disconnect direct access to your routing number or debit card.
In a Nutshell: Shop Smart. And Slow.
As you can see, rushing through Holiday Shopping puts you at risk for missing clever, camouflaged attempts to steal your data.
Remember: jumping at that sweet, sweet deal that "ENDS FOREVER IN 3 MINUTES" is never worth risking your personal payment card data.
If you do notice a fraud attempt, you can fight back by alerting the merchant and/or major credit card vendors so that they can begin alerting banks and freezing related transactions.
Safe and happy shopping!