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Stay (Financially) Safe During the Holidays

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As the United States economy slowly digs out from the rubble caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, holiday spending could provide a much-needed boost.

But how much of a boost—if any—will there be? Millions of Americans are still out of work, while countless others have likely tightened their financial belts throughout 2020. Despite all the uncertainty, the National Retail Federation is “cautiously optimistic” about the upcoming holiday shopping season. A mild increase in sales over 2019 is even projected. Not surprisingly, online transactions are expected to increase dramatically, upward of 25% to 35% over 2019.

That means a whole lot of payments via credit and debit cards and a host of electronic payment options. Which, in turn, means an even greater risk of identity theft, credit card fraud, and even non-delivery of goods after an online purchase.

Identity theft and fraud are amplified during the holidays.

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 (even some online 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 and make sure your banking apps have been updated recently. Secure your accounts by using two-factor authentication and/or biometric authentications.
  • 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. There are a few convenient (and free) ways to hitch a little extra security to your accounts:
  • 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: Enjoying a wonderful holiday season without added stress.

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