6 ways to protect your credit cards this holiday shopping season
Protect your credit cards from theft and fraud with these simple tips.
At this time of the year, your credit cards see a lot of action – online and at the stores. Credit card fraud takes place every day, but in the holiday shopping season you need to be extra diligent to keep cybercooks from getting hold of your cards and card numbers. Here are six easy tips that even the least tech-savvy among us can follow.
Make it tough for cybercrooks to steal your credit card number
Keep a record of your cards
Some people scan their cards and save the copies on their laptop, others write all the numbers down and keep them in a safe place. Whatever method you choose, keep a record of your account numbers, their expiration dates and the phone number to report fraud.
Watch your accounts closely
When online shopping, it's safer to use a credit card than a debit card. Credit cards come with consumer protections against fraud that debit cards do not have. Check your account regularly during the season for any strange charges and report the activity as soon as you can. Many companies have toll-free numbers and 24 hour service if you lose your card.
Another good practice is to use a single credit card for your online purchases. It's easier to manage the account, as well as your holiday gift spending budget, without lots of other miscellaneous charges cluttering the statement.
Don't use a public computer for shopping
Avoid free Wi-Fi hotspots
It's tempting to use a store's free Wi-Fi to do price comparisons when you are out shopping. But you risk losing your personal information to hackers if you log on to an unprotected Wi-Fi. Our Avast research team recently set up some fake Wi-Fi hotspots to see how many people would connect and what kind of information they could collect. In only 7 hours, 264 people connected to the fake Wi-Fi network end generated 512,000 data packets. It's just too easy for a hacker to have access to your data.
You can safely use a public Wi-Fi hotspot if you first connect to a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Avast SecureLine VPN is an easy way to hide all your online activities from prying eyes. You simply launch the VPN and it will connect to a nearby server and encrypt all data flowing in or out making it invisible to anyone outside.
Beware of phishing attempts
Email phishing attacks increase during the holiday season. Sophisticated cybercrooks design their emails to look like they come from legitimate companies. For example, you may receive a fake email from an online retailer or a shipping company such as UPS, DHL, or FedEx alerting you that your order did not process or cannot be delivered. A typical scenario is that they ask you to follow a link to a website where you can re enter your credit card information.
Do not click links in emails. You run the risk of malware infection, or voluntarily giving your card number to a crook. Instead, go directly to the website or call their customer service department.
Make sure the shopping site is trustworthy
Well known websites like Amazon or or large retailers are most likely safe. But the small, unknown websites could be riskier.