Fortunately, with just a few extra security precautions in place, both shoppers and merchants can breathe easier knowing that the potential for fraud is greatly limited. Whether it’s phishing, explicit holiday fraud, card-not-present (CNP) scams or something else entirely, here are 9 tips for online shoppers to keep in mind throughout the holiday season, which merchants and businesses can help reinforce to keep fraud at bay.
As tempting as it may be, consumers should avoid using public Wi-Fi, especially when making online purchases. Both personal and financial information are more vulnerable on these Wi-Fi networks, and fraudsters may lure consumers onto their own Wi-Fi networks that imitate legitimate ones. Whether you’re shopping online in public or at home, consumers should also make sure any eCommerce website is safe to use. This can be confirmed by finding security icons at the bottom right-hand corner of the website during checkout, which indicate a secure, card-not-present transaction. Secure websites also use the https protocol, as opposed to the older http protocol that can indicate a less secure, or even a potentially fraudulent, website.
Consumers who sign up for automated alerts are notified each time their debit or credit card is used. This is a real-time solution that can stop fraud in its tracks, especially when paired with a digital wallet app that lets the user turn individual cards off and on. It can quickly limit the number of chargebacks and reduce the cardholder’s responsibility for fraudulent charges.
Scammers are at work all year long, but holiday shopping is a particularly busy season. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission is an excellent resource for identifying recent scam alerts. One frequent scam this time of year is fraudulent healthcare open enrollment. Someone posing as a Medicare sales agent, for example, is absolutely a scam; according to the FTC, there are no sales representatives for Medicare.
Charity phone calls soliciting donations may or may not be sincere, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Consumers who receive phone calls for donations to local schools, fire stations or other organizations should ask for a written solicitation through the mail. This helps with the vetting process to make sure the donation is truly being used for charitable purposes.
Home security solutions have become increasingly accessible for the average consumer. During the holiday season, a video doorbell can send automatic notifications anytime someone approaches a home’s front door and record any potential theft. Other alternatives include having deliveries sent to the workplace, or using Amazon Locker for delivery to a secure package station.
When traveling during this busy season, device charging hubs seem like a convenient way for consumers to top up batteries and stay connected. However, there has been an increase in “juice jacking” where fake outlets are rigged to steal personal data from devices or inject malicious software. A portable charging station is a low-cost alternative for consumers to stay safe while on the road.
Most smartphones now provide the option to use thumbprint or facial recognition features to log in or access payment apps. Taking advantage of these extra security precautions is especially important for individuals who store bank account information on their mobile devices.
Diversifying online passwords helps prevent future account takeovers. Consumers should protect their login information across websites by creating unique email and password combinations for each merchant account. Using an online password manager is a safe way to keep track of multiple password combinations.
A burgeoning eCommerce trend is the advent of “friendly fraud,” in which consumers dispute charges that they don’t think are legitimate. Often times, young children using parents’ devices unwittingly make online purchases, or even older children might discreetly initiate in-app charges. A simple solution is to add a PIN that is required before completing any purchases on a device.
Identity theft can lead to fraudulent accounts being unknowingly opened in a consumer’s name. The end of the year is an excellent time to access a free credit report to ensure its accuracy. Ongoing credit score monitoring is also helpful. Consumers can sign up through a paid service or see if their bank or credit card company offers it for free.
Fraud might not be the first thing that consumers think of during the holiday season, but developing positive habits can save money, time and effort in the long run. This is especially important during the time of year when everyone would rather be spending time with family and friends than performing damage control thanks to a scammer.
To find out more about how to be prepared for the upcoming holiday shopping season, check out the 2019 Holiday Season Preparedness Guide.