Online Shopping? Follow These Simple Steps to Protect Yourself

From Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, more than 174 million Americans shopped in stores and online during the five-day holiday weekend, beating the 164 million estimated shoppers from an earlier survey.

Are you one of these millions of people that chose the convenience of shopping online as opposed to fighting the crowds in packed stores and malls? If you are there are some steps you can take to protect yourself while online shopping. Below is an article we would like to share. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

The expected robust consumer activity this holiday season should be good news for your card portfolio. Still, it also means fraudsters will be busier themselves. The best way to stop a fraudster remains an informed, vigilant and technologically-equipped member. Here are some holiday shopping safety tips you still have time to share with your members:

  1. Buy only from reputable retailers. Counterfeit goods are common in the online marketplace. Consumers should exercise caution when merchandise is priced well below the going commercial rate or when shopping with an unknown merchant.
  2. Take extra steps to secure online purchases. Educate members about alternative payment methods that are safer to use online and via mobile devices, such as prepaid debit cards, Visa Checkout, Masterpass and tokenized payment options like Apple Pay.
  3. Secure PCs and mobile devices. Your members may be shopping from laptops, PCs and mobile devices infected with viruses and malware that give cybercriminals access to their personal data. Advise members to install quality virus and anti-malware software on their devices.
  4. Beware of instant savings discounts. Consumers are often barraged with credit offers. Let members know that they need to pay close attention to how their information is being collected if they are asked to open a credit account in exchange for a discount.
  5. Don’t trust those “knuckle busters.” Old-fashioned imprint machines that produce a carbon copy of payment cards still exist. Tell members never to use one.
  6. Don’t swipe at checkout. The magstripe on the back of payment cards is less secure than chip-enabled payment, which is why members should avoid “swiping” their card at checkout. If a retailer does not accept chip card payments, members should ask to use Apple, Samsung or Android Pay instead.
  7. Keep a close eye on balances. Members need to keep tabs on their accounts, should know how much money they have on deposit and track how much they owe on revolving charge accounts. Have them contact you if they notice dramatic changes in balances.
  8. Use mobile controls and alerts. Providing members with a mobile app for card controls allows them to monitor transactions, stop fraud before it happens, restrict purchases and turn cards off altogether.

Don’t let fraud steal your holiday cheer. Teaching members how to shop safely is among the best gifts you can give them this season.

Bill Prichard is director/public relations for CO-OP Financial Services, based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., a provider of payments and financial technology to credit unions.

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