Money IQ: ‘Tis the Season
By Melissa Romero
‘Tis the Season
We all know that the holiday season is a time for giving but for many thieves and criminals, it’s a time for taking and it’s your money that they’re after.
Every year, more and more people fall victim to identity theft, fraud and phishing schemes.
This week’s edition of Money IQ will help you better understand what you can do to ensure that you and your money are safe.
During the holidays we tend to get so busy with our preparations we sometimes let our guard down, especially financially.
Not closely monitoring our accounts, making large and frequent purchases, and using our debit cards/credit cards for online purchases as well as a variety of other activities tend to leave us vulnerable to attacks from these criminals.
With this in mind, here are some dos and don’ts for this holiday season:
Online shopping is very popular this time of year. Make sure you do order from reputable companies and that their sites are secure.
Look for signs that the business is legitimate:
- Find out what other shoppers say;
- Look for https (the "s" stands for secure) in their URL; and
- Look for third party seals of approval, like from the BBB (Better Business Bureau) or TRUSTe.
Our spending tends to increase in the months of November and December. Do check your bank accounts more often.
Look for any suspicious or incorrect charges and notify your creditors of any fraudulent charges.
Do know who’s entering your home. Sometimes we hire people to clean our homes, work in our yards or service our appliances and they are not always from a reputable company.
It’s always important that you keep your checks, credit cards, money and jewelry in a safe and secure location.
While shopping at malls and large box stores, it is important to be discrete. Don’t flash cash, credit cards or other valuable items around. Criminals are always looking for an easy target.
When you head to the mall to do your holiday shopping - don’t leave your valuables unattended. Purses can be snatched from your shopping cart or your vehicle in the blink of an eye.
If someone calls you about donations don’t provide your bank account information over the phone. Ask them to send you the information in the mail so you can look it over and then do some research to confirm it’s a legitimate non-profit organization.
Most of us receive emails from people we don’t know trying to sell us something or telling us we’ve won a prize - don’t click on the links in these emails.
A lot of times there is a virus embedded in the message and it can download a keystroke logger program, which can capture your user ID’s and passwords.
When meeting people online in chat rooms or dating sites, be extremely cautious with giving out too much personal information and don’t send them money, regardless of the reason they give you.
When taking out cash at an ATM or making purchases at the grocery store - don’t ever give out your PIN number.
In the end, if you fall victim to one of these crimes - be sure to report it immediately! Make sure you inform the police, your bank and other creditors, as well.
Letting them know that your information has been compromised will help stop any additional losses.
Editor's note: Melissa Romero is the Security Officer and Fraud Investigator for Los Alamos National Bank. She has been with the bank for 22 years.
- Look for the Money IQ column every Wednesday in the Los Alamos Daily Post.