Consumers need to be vigilant all year-round to keep their credit safe from fraud when shopping — And the need to monitor gets magnified during the holiday season, when we tend to spend considerably more than the rest of the year.
Whether you’re shopping in a brick-and-mortar store or online, you should pay attention to your purchases and the impact they can have on your credit score. With a brick-and-mortar store, you have the option of paying in cash, but online, cards are often the go-to choice for making purchases.
Consumers, however, can face all types of headaches if they unwittingly hand sensitive credit card or debit card information to fraudsters. Before you click, you should know whether the site you’re shopping on is a legitimate company selling products that they will ship to you as promised. Or if it’s an authentic-looking site created by a scammer to capture the card numbers of unsuspecting shoppers.
You can minimize the odds of fraud by sticking to encrypted sites (identified by the https at the beginning of a web address) and shopping with trusted retailers. Here are four more ways you can protect yourself this holiday season (and beyond).
1. Record All Transactions That You Make
You shouldn’t just wait for the site to send you an invoice by email. Instead, when you purchase something, you should take a screenshot of the website, and note the date, time, product, amount and URL.
2. Check Your Credit Card Statements Online
You shouldn’t wait for the bill to come to you before you follow up on the purchase. You can give the company a day or two, then sign in and review the purchase to make sure it’s for the correct amount (and, if possible, further authenticate that the company has actually shipped your merchandise). If you spot any inaccuracies or unauthorized charges, you should notify your issuer immediately to dispute them and have your card replaced.
3. Use Only One Credit Card for Online Purchases
Although it can be wise to rotate the use of your credit cards in general (so all of your accounts get used), you may want to limit your credit risk by selecting just one credit card to use for online purchases. If you have multiple cards, doing so can make it easier for you to track your purchases and make sure you are being charged the right amount.
4. Check Your Credit Score
You should review your credit score after the holiday season to make sure that your credit continues to be as healthy as it can be. You should also pull your credit report to help you spot and correct any trouble areas that may have arisen over the holiday season. (Big credit card balances, for instance, can cause your score to drop.)
Monitoring your credit throughout the year is also a good idea since it can help you spot signs your identity has been stolen. You can check your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and see your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.
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