Financial Blog

Personal Finance

According to a 2017 survey by Deloitte the average holiday shopper is anticipated to spend $1,226 on gifts this season. That amount nearly doubles to $2,226 among households earning $100,000 or more.
Over 51 percent of this spending will be done online.
According to the National Retail Federation, an estimated 165.8 million consumers shopped between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday!

This makes the holidays not only a season for Christmas cheer but one for rampant credit card theft. As the holiday shopping frenzy has moved from malls to online merchants - thieves have focused their efforts on exploiting the unique attributes of e-commerce. 

According to a 2018 report from Javelin Strategy & Research, in 2017 there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud,  an increase from the previous year.  You may be so busy during the holidays, that you don’t realize that you were one of these 16.7 million victims until several weeks later when paying an unexpectedly high credit card payment. Or even worse - you arrive at the checkout counter after hours of selecting the perfect gift for everyone on your list - only to find out that you can’t make a purchase on your own credit cards because a thief has already maxed them all out!

If your credit has been ruined or access to your credit is limited due to credit card theft, speak to one of our LoanMe representatives to discuss financial support options to hold you over during this time.

We want you to enjoy the holidays as much as we do, so we’ve put together 3 key steps you can take to prevent a thief, a scammer or a hacker ruining this special season:

1. Check your mailbox every day
We’ve all heard of thieves stealing holidays deliveries from our porches but what many of us don’t think about is how many of them also rifle through our mailbox for credit card offers. And to make this issue worse, many of us are not necessarily expecting these offers so when one turns up missing - we may not found out until months later after the credit card balance has already been cashed out. An extra step is to have packages delivered to your work or require a signature in order to be delivered. If there aren’t any packages on your porch, a potential thief is likely to move onto the next house to check for packages and a full mailbox.

An additional step is to sign up for a secured PO box at your local USPS. There are even some local businesses that provide this service so your mail is secure until you pick it up. Additionally, you can contact to a local post office and inquire about Informed Delivery that scans all your incoming mail and emails you notifications so you can confirm that you have received all your important, financial, and confidential mail items.

2. Be more diligent about monitoring credit card transactions
Technology has made it easier for thieves to obtain your credit card information without even taking your card. You may feel safe with your purse wrapped around your chest, knowing that your credit card is still safely in your wallet. But for less than a few hundred dollars on Amazon, thieves can purchase Credit Card Skimmers that read your credit card information without you even knowing it happened!  To combat this effort, you may have noticed that many of your credit cards have updated to RFID chips. However, scammers are already one step ahead of us and RFID scanner technology is becoming more readily available. But for under 25 bucks, you can purchase an RFID scanner-blocking wallet or purse such as this one available on Amazon.

You might consider leaving your credit card at home and using cash for in-store purchases to avoid this security issue but you are still at risk. Many thieves can obtain your merchant and credit card username and password by hacking into your computer and accessing your private information. You don’t shop online? Well, they can still intercept consumer data from the merchant's network without you even knowing. Plus, the merchant may not realize it for several hours to a few days, after much of the damage to your credit has already been done.

3. Protect yourself when online shopping
As the holiday shopping frenzy has moved from malls to online merchants - thieves have focused their efforts on exploiting the unique attributes of e-commerce. An ongoing precaution is to change your online credentials often. But at the very least change them right before and after the holiday season, when online scammers are most prevalent.

We all love Cyber Monday but it is important to become a smart online consumer by learning how to spot phony websites or unsecured URLs that could give scammers access to your credit card information. Whenever shopping online:
Check out the address bar before submitting ANY INFORMATION online.
Confirm that the website is using an SSL certificate by looking for the padlock icon
Make sure  the address begins with “https:” as illustrated in the image below:

Even with extra precaution, you are still at risk for credit card fraud
We know you would rather be at the holiday office party but even if you take all the precautions we mentioned above, there is no way to guarantee that scammers won’t find a way to make unauthorized charges on your credit cards. As technology continues to evolve, even the bigger credit card merchants have a hard time keeping up with their security measures so LoanMe recommends you check your credit card statements at least once a week, if not more during the holidays.  Many creditors have online access to charges between statements. You might even be able to set up an alert that texts you a message or emails you every time a charge is made on your account or if any charges to your account go above a certain dollar limit.

An extra step you can take is to be more selective in who you open your credit cards with and consider the security measures offered with the account. Some come with free credit report monitoring and some even ensure unauthorized charges if their investigation finds it was actually theft.

We also recommend that you monitor your credit report, apply for credit card accounts that offer credit report monitoring or sign-up for a company that provides this service.  However, you are entitled to one free report every year from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

If you see a purchase that you did not make or new credit account you did not authorize contact both the creditor and the Federal Trade Commission immediately to report possible theft or fraud.