Sense & Centsibility Blog

Twitter Thursday: Preventing Fraud During Holiday Shopping

Each week we participate in a Twitter Chat hosted by Experian to discuss important financial topics. This week's topic: Smart Ways to Protect Your Identity This Holiday Season. We offer our tips to avoid fraud, scams and identity theft while holiday shopping!

Q1: How can you spot a fake website while online shopping during the holidays?

A1: Make sure YOU are typing in the address.  Don’t click on links or ads that pop up.  Double check the address to ensure it is correct and if it is asking for payments make sure the website is https and has the “locked” symbol.

Q2: Is it safer to use a debit card or credit card while shopping online and in stores?

A2: For purposes of fraud they are both the same  – if a credit card number is discovered and used by thieves there is no cost to you the consumer; the same holds true if a debit card number has been used, but was discovered and reported within 60 calendar days.

Q3: What should you do if you lost your passport while on vacation in another country?

A3: Report lost/stolen passports immediately. Go to the nearest Embassy/Consulate to file a report of the loss/theft and do the paperwork needed to replace your passport.

Q4: What kinds of passwords are strongest but still easy enough to remember?

A4: Avoid using names of your partner, children or pets as those are easy to find via social media. Finding a nonsense phrase that you think of when logging in can help, changing letters for symbols & numbers when possible.

Q5: What should you do if you’re a victim of credit card fraud?

Call the credit card company to report it to the fraud department, close the account or have them issue a new card with a new number.  The credit card company will also go through what charges are yours and which are not.  Make sure to change any passwords with online accounts and ensure they are different from other passwords you use. Next, call one of the credit reporting agencies to issue a Fraud Alert on your file (they will notify the other 2 agencies) – also obtain your free credit reports to see if any other fraud has occurred. Finally, report to the FTC at – this will issue you a “recovery plan”.

Q6: Should you request an EMV chip card to replace your magnetic stripe card?

If your card holder isn’t automatically updating your card to a EMV (Europay, Mastercard & Visa) Chip Card then YES you should request one.  The EMV cards create a unique code each time the card is used, while the magnetic stripe never changes so is easily “skimmed” and duplicated.

Q7: Is mobile pay safe to use?

Due to the technology behind mobile pay, some experts say it is safer than other “traditional” methods of paying; however, it is not fail safe. Three things to consider before using mobile pay:

  1. The security of your phone, do you have a passcode that is hard to crack? If you lose your phone have you just handed all of your financial information away?
  2. Do you have a secure wi-fi connection?  Using a public or unsecure wi-fi connection is easily hacked and therefore all the information you are putting in your phone.
  3. Do you click or download a lot of links and unknown apps?  Mobile Malware is a growing threat and affects phones the same way it does computers – clicking and downloading unknown/unsafe items.

Q8: Is it okay to shop online using public Wi-Fi?

In general we would advise doing very little via public wi-fi unless you have a secure VPN that you use with your laptop.

Q9: How do you know if your identity’s been stolen?

Missing or extra mail; phone calls regarding debts that don’t make sense; denial for credit when it shouldn’t have been an issue.  Auto/home/renters insurance goes up and credit is listed as the issue when nothing else has changed.

Q10: Any final tips on protecting your identity this holiday season?

Be aware of where you are spending money and how much. Create personal space to avoid “shoulder surfers” when paying/entering PINs.

These questions were answered by April Sanderson, an LSS Financial Counselor.