It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Cheerful carols are playing everywhere you go and people are in the giving mood. Everyone is out buying gifts for the special people on their list. While this can help put you in a cheery mood, it can also leave you vulnerable to thieves who want to steal your identity! Safe guarding your credit is the most important gift you can give yourself, here are some tips on how to accomplish this in four easy steps!
1.Keep a Close Eye on Your Credit
Reviewing your credit report and being able to identify suspicious activity is something you should be doing all year, but it’s especially important when you are using your credit cards more than usual. This makes the holiday season a critical time to monitor your credit. Here are just a few ways you can accomplish this:
- Credit Monitoring: Credit monitoring services check for changes on your credit report on a daily basis. You automatically get a notification if a new line of credit is opened or something else significant happens, so it’s a good way to stay on top of things without having to constantly log into a system.
- Fraud Alerts: Many credit card companies already have these services in place for their card transactions, but you can also set up alerts for your credit report. This tells creditors to check with you personally for any attempts to open up new accounts. You can approve those that you initiated and deny the ones that are being opened by identity thieves.
- Security Freezes: If you don’t plan on opening any new account soon or want to prevent even yourself from opening new accounts, you can put a freeze on your credit. This will make it impossible for any new accounts to be opened up until the freeze is lifted. If you aren’t planning on opening new accounts in the near future, this is your best option.
2. Shop Securely; both online and in stores:
We’re all on the hunt for the best deal, but sometimes that can mean putting our credit card at risk. Only shop from trusted websites with a TRUSTe or similar seal so you know your information is safe. PayPal is also a great option if available as they have their own security measures in place such as transaction disputes and buyer protection guidelines. Also keep in mind that any page that asks for your credit card number should be secure and start with https:// vs http://.
When shopping in store, be sure to protect your belongings and be on the lookout for suspicious shoppers. Don’t leave your wallet anywhere or your bag in an unattended cart even for a split second as thieves are waiting for an opportunity to strike. Consider using your credit card over your debit card or cash so you have the option to dispute a charge if needed. Some credit cards offer extended warranties, giving you an added benefit.
3. Review your bank and credit card statements:
Be sure to review your recent transactions every few days. The longer you wait to dispute a charge the harder it may be to prove it was fraud. You also want to catch suspicious transactions before they have a chance to pile up and eat away at your available credit. Websites like Mint and Credit Karma can also help you keep track of recent activity, and can even help you stay in budget (an added bonus)!
If you see any purchases you don’t recognize, contact your credit card company right away so they can prevent more transactions from occurring if your card has been compromised.
4. Check your credit reports:
You have a legal right to obtain your credit report once a year at know charge. This will help you identify any late payments or open accounts that you don’t recognize. January or February is a good time of year to check this annually as it will help you review activity that occurred during the holidays. Websites like Credit Karma will also help you keep track of accounts all year long without having to pay anything!
Your credit is possibly the item that is most critical to protect. It can affect everything from getting a loan for a new car to buying a home, so make sure you are taking as many precautions possible to make sure you have the highest score possible!