Holiday Shopping: Keeping Your Money Safe

Holiday Shopping: Keeping Your Money Safe

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Safe Holiday Shopping

Holiday shopping!  Black Friday alerts are popping up all over my email these days, a sure sign that the peak holiday shopping season can’t be far away.

Excitement’s up, precaution’s down.  And, like all the scumbags that appear right after a major hurricane to take advantage of people who have their guard down, the scammers and pickpockets are going into hyper drive.

As someone who hopes you think twice (or three or four times) before spending senselessly on gifts … because I’m concerned about your long-term financial well-being … I know when I’m licked.  So if I can’t save you from yourself, I may as well at least try to save you getting taken by outsiders.

According to the security company Symantec/Norton, $114 billion were lost last year through global cyber crime, or deceptive online practices.  Lost time related to that accounted for $274 billion more.  Together, that’s more than the value of the global black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined!

More than two thirds of online adults have been a victim of cyber crime in their lifetime. Fourteen adults become a victim of cyber crime every second, resulting in more than one million cyber crime victims every day.  Now 10 percent of adults online have experienced cyber crime on their mobile phone as well.  And those numbers are growing.

But you already know about all the online protections you should take:

1.    If you go to a URL from another website or email, double check the URL to be sure you haven’t been redirected somewhere else.
2.    Before putting your payment information into a site, be sure the URL starts with “https” instead of “http.”  And look for the little closed padlock icon in your browser window.  At least you’ll be on a secure website.
3.    Use credit cards instead of debit cards, because you have more recourse if you do land in a scammer’s grasp.  And Paypal is even better since the seller never sees your credit card information.
4.    On big-ticket items, you might be asked security questions.  These authentication questions are for your own protection … as long as you’re talking to a real retailer.
5.    The 3- or 4-digit security number on your card plays the same role.  Only you (and someone who has stolen your card!) would have it as it’s physically on your card.  If the card has been stolen, hopefully the merchant will ask for your billing address zip code, which a thief would not know.

And when you go fight the crowds, which some of you will, here are a few well-known tips about “What’s In YOUR Wallet”:

1.    Only take cards you know you’re going to need.  If you still have a boatload of them, leave most of them at home so it’s less devastating if a pickpocket decides to relieve you of that fat wallet in your back pocket or purse.
2.    If you carry checks, be sure they don’t have your Social Security Number on them.  And having your address and phone number at work printed on checks is a lot smarter than those at home.
3.    Instead of signing the back of your credit cards, write “Photo ID Required” in the signature space.
4.    Before you venture out to malls and big box stores, spread every card on a copier and copy both sides of every license, credit card, etc.  That goes for your Social Security card too.  And leave the copies at home, safely filed where only you know where they are.  What you can take with you, but shouldn’t leave in your wallet or purse, is a listing of stolen-card alert numbers at:

  •    Visa (1-800-847-2911)
  •    Mastercard (1-800-627-8372)
  •    Discover (1-800-347-2683)
  •    Equifax (1-800-525-6285)
  •    Experian/TRW (1-888-397-3742)
  •    TransUnion (1-800-680-7289)
  •    Social Security fraud line (1-800-269-0271)

There, I made it easier.  Print this page and cut out the numbers.  And remember to call all of the ones that apply immediately after a loss.
5.    If something awful does happen, be sure to file a police report in the jurisdiction where it happened, not once you get back home.  It’s no guarantee that they’ll ever find the criminals, but at least you can prove to card issuers that you did your due diligence.  And once home, notify your card issuers in writing as well, immediately.

This is all information that circulates pretty freely, so I’m just serving as your reminder service.  But I’d like to share the extra steps I take because I take my money, as well as my personal identity, super seriously.

1.    If I’m searching for a certain product online and Google it, I don’t follow a link haphazardly because it’s too easy for shadow sites to be created around popular products.  The goal of such sites is to obtain my personal information directly or by putting malware on my computer.  Instead, I find out where the product is being sold and I type in the online or offline retailer’s URL directly.
2.    I bought an RFID wallet online from TamperSeal that fits my passport and the few credit cards I carry.  (No, I have no affiliation; I just love the product and their service.) Thanks to a thin metal mesh inside the leather, the RFID chip on those documents can’t be read, so my personal information can’t be harvested by anyone who’s sneaky enough to buy an RFID chip reader.  Card issuers claim there is no danger, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
3.    I pay for one of those identify-theft protection services.  I saw the level of protection it provided when I tried to buy my first big-ticket item after activating it, and I consider the service one more welcome layer of protection.
4.    Even if we buy everything on credit cards, and not on the less-protected debit cards, eventually we need to make a payment out of a bank account, even if it’s just for the credit card balance.  And then there are all those online payments we make:  phone, lights, cable, internet, etc.  I have only one bank account that has online access to it, and I monitor the activity on that account by looking at it online every day.  That’s partly for safety, and partly because of the connectedness it gives me to my money.  My money remains “physical” in my brain, and not invisible “funds” that move about at the click of a mouse.
5.    Lastly, to be sure I limit my exposure in that account, I move money into it periodically.  But to sleep really well at night, I don’t transfer money in from another account.  I physically go to the other bank, take out the cash I’ve budgeted and drive it to deposit in the bank with the online account.  Call me crazy.  Call me paranoid.  I call it “safe.”

As Sergeant Phil Esterhaus used to say at the end of roll call on Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”

And let us know in the comment section below if you have any other suggestions you’d like to share.



AND include the following citation at the end of the article!

About the Author: Sharon O’Day is a tell-it-like-it-is money expert with a successful career in global finance and marketing, plus an MBA from the Wharton School. Today she specializes in getting entrepreneurial women over 50 back on their game so they can be financially free.  With the “Over Fifty and Financially Free” strategic plan, they take actions that bring them more money and less stress … which means happier, fuller lives.  More About Sharon


Bio:Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. But yet she did! Since then, Sharon has interviewed countless women and done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers will be shared in her upcoming book “Money After Menopause.” Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve.

  • This is a fabulous list, Sharon! I have resisted using PayPal, but now see why it would be a better alternative to always placing your credit card info “out there”. Now I can safely…Let the shopping begin. Thanks

    • Anonymous

      As I said, Pam, the urge to spend at this time is bigger than the best of us!  So if we can at least do so safely …

  • Your advice is spot on! Love the suggestion to only carry the cards you will use…we just recently learned this one the hard way when my husband had his wallet stolen and yes ….it had everything in it…nightmare! Thanks for the enormous value you always provide in your posts!

    • Anonymous

      Isn’t that a bugger, Denny.  We accumulate cards and for some reason think we have to have them on our physical bodies at all times.  Silly, and devastating, as you learned!  And, worst yet, using that many cards makes it harder to keep track (and truly “feel”) your money and its in-and-out flow.  Much better to take the one or two cards you might use and lock the rest away somewhere safe at home!

  • WOW Sharon! What a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts. Definitely printing this to share with my husband. I must admit, the whole conversation scares me a little bit, but a little discomfort now is so much better than a whole lot of discomfort later. Thanks for the great, useful info!

    • Anonymous

      Michele, I just cherry-picked the items I thought were the most valuable, so I wouldn’t totally overwhelm my readers.  But doing just those should go a long way to keeping us safe, both online and off.  Glad to hear you’re sharing them!

  • Thank you Sharon for sharing! The economic numbers are certainly staggering when we examine ‘Global Cyber Crime’! Excellent information for ‘Safe Holiday Shopping’! …Hughie

    • Anonymous

      Hughie, those statistics blew me away too.  I knew it was bad, but had no idea what impact it had.  And now that we hear daily about billions and trillions, we have a way (sort of) of putting “billions” into some kind of context!

  • Anne (Annie) Berryhill

    Great advice of course, and I love how you put it all together in one convenient place! I love how you think!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Annie.  Guess I came wired that way! 😉

  • Wow. what great info.  Some I know and do and some new reminders.  I have security shield covers on my credit cards in my wallet.  I got 4 of them for $10. for great piece of mind.

    • Anonymous

      Pat, I’ve seen the security shields.  Whatever works!  😉

  • Cat

    Sharon, this is all such great advice! I am going to forward this information to my mom as well. I want to keep this on hand for referral often as well.

    • Anonymous

      Glad you found it useful, Cat! 

  • Holli

     I love what you wrote, and learned something new.  I had never heard of the RFID chips before.   I would really appreciate it if  you would send me some more information about them so I can protect myself and share with my family –
    Also, which identity theft protection service do you recommend?   I’ve gotten so many mixed messages on the one to use that I haven’t done it yet.   First on my to do list.  
    Hope you had a wonderful weekend!
    Let’s chat again soon = I’ve been playing around with some ideas,


    • Anonymous

      Holli, (1) RFID chips have been used in container shipping and all other forms of inventory control for a long time, because they are an easy way to keep track of items from a certain distance.  They replaced many bar codes.  More recently they’ve worked their way into our credit cards, passports, and other personal identification.  They’re also in automatic toll systems, ‘micro-chipping’ your pet, hospital specimen tracking, casino chips … and now (yes!) ants.  Most controversial is ‘chipping’ humans.  Just Google ‘RFID’ …  (2) I signed up with LifeLock early on.  I know many others have come on the scene, probably some better and others worse, but no service is 100%.  And, ultimately, we have a part to play by acting intelligently.  (Even the best of services can be blown by abject carelessness.)

  • It is so nice of you Sharon to share this information with others, especially for the holiday season. People need a reminder and guidance. 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Solvita, it’s so easy to get careless when nothing “bad” happens to us for awhile.  We let our guard down.  And the sharks are certainly circling in the water during this season …  Here’s to a safe holiday season for all!

  • LOVE the audio feature! Thanks for the great tips! I listened while I folded a load of laundry so you also helped me with my productivity! 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Anything I can do to help get that load of laundry folded, McKenna!  I aim to serve.  😉  Actually, you’d be amazed the things people say they get done while listening to my little audios …

  • AJ

    Thanks for the tips, and the credit card company list.

  • You pretty well covered the safety tips for credit cards, debit cards and our bank accounts when shopping at the mall or online. The only thing to add is telephone safety. Never, ever give out your social security number, drivers license number, bank account information or mothers maiden name to anyone requesting it over the phone (with the exception if you call your bank and they request it for identification purposes). Be safe, think before you act or speak and thanks for the reminder, Sharon.

  • Great info Sharon! This was very helpful!! 🙂

  • Sue

    Wow…this is great advice Sharon.  Thanks so much for sharing!!  I am going to print it off so I can study it even more!

  • Thanks for putting all of this in one place.  SO easy to share with friends and family this way.  My brother and I get busy emailing & texting each other on Cyber Monday (or Green Gift Monday, as I call it) about online deals.  But I always check the browser bar to make sure I’m where I think I am, and that the https is there.  This will make me even more careful though.

  • GREAT tips Sharon!  Going to share your post with my followers!  Love it!  

  • These are all great suggestions Sharon!  This needs to be posted in the post office or something.  If most people actually followed all these suggestions the fraud business would be reduced to practically nothing. 

  • Annagregerson

    Thanks so much for this Sharon!  I recently have been dealing with a FB hack and likely fraud and/or attempted identity theft.  It has been a time consuming, scary, inconvenient nightmare.  Your information will help me finish this up – and keep it from happening again. 

  • Sharon, thanks for all these great tips of caution when using credit cards online.  I know about most of them but appreciate the reminders to be careful.  You are not paranoid, just wise.  Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Vicky Horner 3637

    Great article Sharon, thanks for the invitation to share, I am going to do just that!

  • Lizabet

    Sharon – You are the real deal.  I truly respect your expertise.  Your desire to serve your audience shines through.  The RFID wallet is a great gift idea.  Thanks for such a detailed and informative post.