Wallet safety – it isn’t just for keeping your good leather wallet dirt-free and looking snazzy! It’s also for financial safety – debit cards, credit cards, and financial account safety.
Especially during the holiday season we need to stay on our toes; aware of the usual risks as well as increased online swindles and fraud involving financial information. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll have a safer holiday season!
Personal Identification Number (PIN)
Doesn’t it seem like we have more and more security stuff to keep track of today – passwords for work, home, online games, Facebook – do we want more? Coming up with a new PIN is really just another number to memorize, right? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just use the same one for everything?
While it might be tempting to use one password or PIN (to rule them all!), such as a birthday or other important date, doing so makes it much easier for an identify thief to empty your accounts. Don’t let it happen to you! Either use the PIN sent with your debit card, or create one using the rules outlined in our article on PIN safety. And it doesn’t hurt to change your PIN once in a while just in case. Don’t write your PIN on anything associated with the specific account either, like a debit card sleeve, your address book, or a yellow sticky in your wallet!
Online Shopping Safety
Cyber Monday has become just as much a tradition as Black Friday for great deals and savings on top brands and gift items. And the best part? No pushing and shoving, and no limited stock gobbled up by the people who spent the past week camped in the parking lot! However, is every site safe? Not necessarily! Be alert and shop safe online:
- Have good antivirus software on your computer. There are a number of great options on the market, so find the best solution for your online habits.
- Shopping from your phone or tablet? Again, make sure you install an antivirus program! Most of the major companies offer mobile versions of their software.
- Is the site reputable? During the ordering or payment process, are you on a site with HTTP or HTTPS in the web address? That S means secured and encrypted. Look for logos for Verisign, McAfee or other trusted security companies on the home page of the site you’re shopping.
- Need something truly unique to surprise the person who has “everything?” Using EBay, Etsy, or Craigslist has become popular in recent years. However, where possible you should check the seller’s reputation, rating, and feedback. If they’re new, have a less than stellar rating, or have complaints listed in feedback, beware. You may pay for something you’ll never receive. And if you’re visiting someone’s home to pick up or check out an item, make sure someone knows where you’re going and when. It never hurts to be cautious.
- When paying online, use a credit card or Paypal. If your credit card number is stolen, you are only responsible for up to $50.00 worth of charges. Check your statements, and keep track of your spending. Compare receipts to statements to make sure that the amounts add up. See something suspicious? Contact your credit card company immediately. With Bellwether, if you notice fraudulent use of your account (either through a debit card, a check or some other method) notify us immediately! You will not be responsible for fraudulent usage reported in a timely manner.
What if you do happen to lose your wallet? Having a plan in place can help stop a lot of financial damage! First, keep a list of your credit cards, bank accounts, and other financial information. The list should include account numbers, 1-800 numbers, passcodes, and any PIN associated with the account. Store it in a locked fireproof filing cabinet, safe deposit box, or safe. Keep any key hidden separately. This gives you a backup of all necessary contact and account information. If you discover fraudulent charges or realize that your wallet has been stolen, call all credit card and financial institutions immediately. Explain what happened, and ask them to put a hold on your accounts. Let them know you’ll follow up as soon as you can with any fraudulent activity. Then review activity on your accounts and report any fraudulent use. You usually have a brief 1 or 2 day window to report fraudulent use once you’ve noticed it, so don’t wait!
If you use these tips and stay alert when you’re out and about, you’ll survive the busiest shopping season of the year safely and with lots of great deals and memories to share. So shop safely and have a wonderful holiday season!