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Stay (Financially) Safe During the Holidays

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’Tis the season for holiday shoppers to spend billions of dollars.

Whether shopping in-person or online, most of us will opt for the convenience of credit cards, debit cards, or a host of electronic payment options at our disposal, including mobile payments.

Indicators are pointing to a record season this year, with holiday retail sales in November and December expected to reach approximately $730 billion, according to The National Retail Federation’s annual holiday sales forecast. As much as $167 billion of that is expected to come from online or other non-store sales.

That’s a lot of transactions, and only a small fraction will be made in cash. Almost all these purchases will be safely completed, yet each electronic transaction comes with a small risk. Common threats are identity theft, credit card fraud, and even non-delivery of goods after an online purchase.

Each electronic transaction comes with a small risk.

This is the reality of living in the digital age.

Credit unions have invested millions of dollars for increasingly secure payment methods that provide seamless transactions to members. From chip technology on credit and debit cards to payment forms through mobile phones, SELCO and other credit unions have made many advancements that have helped make shopping safer.

You can also take proactive measures to protect yourself this holiday season. Here are a few:

Use Common Sense

  • Return a debit or credit card to its normal storage place—wallet or otherwise. It can be easy to misplace a card when you’re in a rush, especially in a busy store during the holiday season. And while we often think of credit card fraud as a high-tech crime, it can also be a result of a lost card falling into the wrong hands.
  • Avoid unfamiliar online retailers. You don’t necessarily have to steer clear of small businesses. But be wary of unfamiliar online retailers offering deals that seem too good to be true. Even when “Cyber Monday” deals flood the Internet, less reputable websites offering over-the-top deals should set off alarms. Often these sites are created as fronts to steal credit card information.

Less Obvious Precautions

  • Lean on current technology. Technological advances can help keep you safe. Mobile payment services like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay allow shoppers to connect their mobile phones to credit and debit cards. Aside from being convenient, these payment services tend to be especially safe because they use a process called “tokenization,” which transmits payment information via unique identification symbols rather than conventional, sensitive data to execute a transaction. SELCO supports these technologies, and retailers that accept these payments are increasingly common.
  • Stay up to date on software. Take advantage of the software that SELCO has designed to help keep accounts safe.
  • Set up transaction alerts & notifications. Rather than relying on your monthly statement to spot suspicious activity well after the fact, sign up for instant notifications and security alerts. This can be done through SELCO Online Banking. Simply log in to online banking at selco.org, click on “Alerts & Messages,” and follow the instructions. Also, if you use the SELCO mobile app, make sure you have the latest version downloaded.
  • Alert your financial institution. If you do spot unusual activity—either by being diligent with your statements or through an alert—be sure to reach out to your financial institution. The last line of defense is a quick response, and it could be the difference between an inconvenience or something far more damaging. Visit the selco.org FAQs section to learn more about how SELCO keeps your accounts safe.

Chances are you’ll be able to shop safely without any issue. But some diligence now can ensure that you can focus on what is important later: Sharing a wonderful holiday season with loved ones.

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