Avoiding Holiday Scams
Updated: Mar 1
Okay kids, it’s time to cozy up and listen to our favorite Christmas story...The Holiday Scammer! Scammers absolutely love to monopolize on the holiday season, the time when the rest of the country is too busy celebrating to think about other people being manipulative. Think about it: large and small gifts, countless store visits, purchases for travel, online and phone orders. All of these components of Christmas shopping are flashing signs that read Scam Me! I Probably Won’t Notice! So what are you supposed to do if someone does steal your identity for Christmas? Well, a wise man once said…
“Never, ever, use a debit card”
-Turner B. Johnson
Truly, the best way to protect yourself from identity fraud is to make sure that the card you’re using is trustworthy in the first place. In that regard, credit cards are far and away superior to debit cards. To illustrate why that is, I’d like to continue that Christmas story. Once upon a time, Mr. Grinch found John Doe’s debit card lying on the sidewalk. He picked it up, and decided to head over to CVS for some ‘free’ candy cane boxes. He emptied the shelf and, card in hand, strutted to the register. Now you might be thinking, he doesn’t have John Doe’s pin number, so he won’t be able to use the card. Unfortunately, Mr. Grinch can easily run the debit card as a credit card, scribble a random signature, and buy $300 worth of candy canes with no questions asked. When Joe Doe double checked his next bank statement, he was shocked to find that not only was he missing $300, but that he somehow had to prove to his bank that he did not make the purchase in a formal investigation.
You see, when there is potential fraud on a debit card, the customer must prove to the bank that they did not make the purchase. However, with a credit card, John Doe could have had his money back with one simple phone call, since with a credit card, the bank policy is to reverse the charge and make the merchant (in our case, CVS) prove that the transaction was valid.
Beyond that, credit cards have much more updated technology. With American Express cards, you don’t have to use your credit card number, you don’t have to share data by using your chip at any terminals, and your statements update instantaneously. Even safer, new credit cards have different numbers for online purchases, Apple Pay, and the actual card itself.
Once you do have the safest card, be sure to protect the physical card number from external view. Keep your card in a wallet, tucked away. After you pay, put it immediately back into your wallet instead of leaving it on the counter. If ordering over the phone, don’t shout your number loud enough for everyone in the store to hear (and write down). Set up travel alerts on your phone so that your credit card company can catch fraud quickly. Above all, keep a close eye on your banking app this season, making sure to immediately report any suspicious activity.
written by Jessica Fields
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