The holiday season is an enormous economic event, so much so that the National Retail Federation estimates that holiday shopping represents as much as 30 percent of a retailer’s annual sales. But as a consumer, increased spending can leave you more vulnerable to theft and fraud.
However, there are steps you can take to guard against theft. Here are seven ways to protect yourself as you shop for the holidays.
1. Protect Your Account Logins
Your accounts are only as strong as your password. Use different passwords for every account; this way, if one of your passwords is compromised, your other accounts will still be safe. Many online retailers (including Amazon) now offer two-factor authentication, which gives you an additional layer of security when you login.
2. Shop with One Account
It’s more difficult to track your spending when you use multiple credit cards or bank accounts. You should limit your holiday shopping to one account, which makes it easier for you to identify unauthorized charges.
3. Shop at Secure Websites
Be careful about the websites you visit. You should only make purchases at trustworthy retailers. Also, check for the secure padlock icon and an “https” at the beginning of the retailer’s web address, both of which indicate that the site is encrypted. This makes it more difficult for hackers to steal your information.
4. Monitor Your Accounts
You should be closely monitoring charges on your account all year long. While many financial institutions now offer account monitoring, their systems aren’t foolproof. Make sure to carefully read over your monthly statements to identify unauthorized charges.
5. Monitor Your Credit Report
Credit card numbers are replaceable, but if thieves get hold of really important information—like Social Security numbers, birthdates, and addresses—you could become a victim of identity theft. Check your credit report regularly to make sure no one is opening fraudulent accounts in your name. You can see your credit report for free at Credit.com.
Brian Acton is a contributor to Credit.com, where this article originally appeared.