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Budget Tracker: 5 Tips To Prevent Fraud This Holiday Shopping Season

For expert budget trackers, the holiday shopping season is a time of generosity and celebration with our families.  This is because our efficient spending practices can make it easier to save money and focus on the things which matter most.  However, there are those unscrupulous members of society who instead choose to focus on the ability to defraud shoppers during this time of holiday cheer.  When looking for help in managing your money, this is why it is critical to use budget tracking tools which will allow you to monitor spending habits in a more objective way.  In conjunction with these tools, our simple tips for safety can help you to protect yourself and avoid theft when shopping online for gifts this holiday season.  

Scams and fraud are not simply something you hear about on the television news.  According to CNBC, these nefarious activities have grown to more than $36 billion each year.  Annualized estimates show that 1-in-16 seniors citizens will fall prey to online.  This is an alarming trend, and it is something that all online shoppers must understand before “proceeding to checkout.”

In this chart above, we can see that the number of fraud victims has risen steadily since 2012.  Fortunately, these victims have not lost as much money, as protective security measures have enabled consumers to spot scams before they are actually able to steal large sums of money.  These types of strategies can be found in our Budget Tracker list of tips for avoiding fraud, which can be found below.

1) Use Secure Sites For Shopping — We are all familiar with the discounts and savings which can be found on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  These deals are wonderful and they can help Budget Trackers save a lot of money each year. But shoppers must always make sure to shop on a safe site.  This can be done by checking the website URL. If he website address begins with “https” rather than “http,” it means that the site uses an SSL Certificate.  If you don’t see “https,” in the website URL, it may be a good idea to shop elsewhere.  

2) Stay Aware — Always be smart about what’s in your wallet and stay aware of your surroundings whenever you’re shopping during the holidays.  Leave your personal info at home and bring only the credit cards which you are most likely to use on the trip. If you lose your purse or wallet, you will have less at risk if it is found by a dishonest person.  When you are conducting an ATM transaction or offering your personal financial information over the phone, make sure that this is done in a secure space. Never offer your personal information to an unknown caller over the phone or in a place where someone can overhear your conversation.

3) Use Credit Monitors – Your credit report is another rich source of information which can be used to protect against fraudulent transactions.  Keep tabs on your credit activity and make sure it’s accurate.  There are free services which provide alerts from the major credit bureaus which flag unwanted changes that indicate possible fraud activities (such as new account openings a or changes of address).

4) Keep Your Social Security Number Secure — It is generally unwise to carry your Social Security card in your wallet, and you can remove it from checks or other documents which you might carry regularly.  Never take a chance that another person may find your Social Security number, and shred any mail or papers which might include your SSN.

5) Watch Your Bank Balances — Every few days, take some time to check your bank accounts for potentially fraudulent charges. Banks and credit card companies use a wide variety of safeguards which are able to catch potential fraud.  But, in many cases, it is up to you to recognize a transaction as fraudulent.

Last, it is always a good idea to read your mailbox updates.  Checking your messages for new alerts is a must for your financial security (not just for cute holiday cards from family members).  During this time of year, identity thieves may target email boxes to find your personal information, so always activity monitor your alerts to get the jump on these potential fraudsters.

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