We are sliding headfirst into the holidays, and while that may mean it’s the most wonderful time of the year for some of us, it’s certainly a joyful season for one group: fraudsters.
‘Tis the season for arguing with family over politics, gaining extra pounds from delicious food, taking advantage of all those fantastic deals that happen on Black Friday and Cyber Monday — and giving fraudsters a chance to engage in seasonally-themed fraud schemes.
I’m an amateur personal finance geek.
Your tools have helped me become a smarter investor.
Personal Capital Dashboard User, February 2021
This could include anything from identity theft or privacy breaches to phishing attacks and account takeovers.
So what are the best ways to protect yourself during a time when your wallet may be opened more than usual, potentially exposing you to more risk than during other times of the year?
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Be Mindful During Travel
Are you one of the millions of Americans traveling during the holidays? Last year, AAA predicted that 50.9 million Americans would travel for Thanksgiving, and more than double (107.3 million) would travel between December 23 and January 1. If you are planning on taking your holiday show on the road, keep in mind that travel can take you out of your normal routines where your instincts would help you more. As you plan your travel, you are likely to engage with new and unfamiliar websites so take a minute to ensure you don’t end up in a fake phishing site.
If you travel via air this holiday, be careful with your boarding pass as the barcode contains sensitive personal information! Make sure you dispose of it safely.
While it’s tempting to use the free WiFi in airports or lounges, proceed with caution: there are not only some fake connections that fraudsters can create, but even the legitimate ones can get hacked at times. If you’re using public WiFi, then be conscientious about what accounts you are logging into, and of course, use caution when doing anything surrounding your finances. If your computer or phone has a Virtual Private Network (VPN) feature, that can help mitigate the risk of public WiFi.
Another important security measure to keep in mind during holiday travel is to avoid announcing when you will be away from your home on social media (especially if your profiles are public). If your home will be unattended while you are traveling, it’s generally inadvisable to alert fraudsters to that fact!
Monitor Your Accounts on a Regular Basis
A good way to protect yourself against financial fraudsters – during the holidays or all throughout the year – is to monitor your accounts and transactions. If you see something fishy, then you can report it to the correct institution right away. By using financial tools like Personal Capital’s dashboard, you can easily track all of your accounts from one single secure login, which means you don’t need to sign in to each account individually to monitor activity. This also means that you are less likely to have important banking passwords stolen.
None of your personal information, such as your Social Security number or other identifying information (including access to your bank accounts), is stored in your Personal Capital dashboard, so you can track your finances without wondering if you’re exposing sensitive information.
Finally, plan as if you are being targeted for fraud or a scam. It’s unfortunate, but every year devices get lost or stolen, and people fall victim to digital scams. Back up your data so you don’t lose cherished family pictures or other important data. Make sure your devices are encrypted and have passwords, so you have a good first line of defense against thieves or scammers.
The best thing you can do to ensure the safety of your accounts is to enable the use of Multi-Factor Authentication wherever possible. Personal Capital uses multi-factor authentication by default for your login, so in the off chance that your password is compromised, your account still will likely not be accessed. To learn more about the security measures we take to keep your data safe at Personal Capital, visit our security page.
Financial fraud occurs all the time, but it’s especially prudent to be aware of this during the holiday season and take steps to protect your finances. The consequences of fraud varies – some of it can be easily rectified within a few days, while other types have years of lasting impact. The difference between the two is early detection. That’s why we encourage you to track your accounts from one place with real-time data on all your transactions — during the most wonderful time of the year and beyond.
To track your transactions safely this season, download Personal Capital’s free financial tools.