Consumer Watch: Holiday Shopping Safely

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How to avoid card skimmers and fraud that can ruin your holiday shopping (KFSN)

Mobile devices are increasingly the top tool of choice for many shoppers, but does this convenience come at a cost of financial safety?

Tis' the season for shopping on the go, while you're enjoying your morning coffee between classes on campus. But for Fresno mom Erin Ellis, a suspicious charge made her pause.
"So, they called us and said we noticed this random charge," Ellis said. "Is this from you? And it wasn't from us."

With that still fresh on her mind, she approaches her mobile shopping carefully. "I only look for the 's' at the end of the 'http,'" Ellis explained. "If it doesn't have the 's' then I don't shop there, I don't use that website."

Be sure to check that the site's secure and encrypted is key. Use a credit card, not a debit card -- which doesn't have the same consumer protections. And don't do your shopping when connected to public wifi. "There's people that could be sitting right next to you at Starbucks in that open wifi environment they could be looking at everything you're typing in," Clovis Police Sergeant Jim Munro said.

Munro, Clovis PD's mobile device expert, says smarter and more secure shopping can still be convenient.

That's because smartphones can be made virtually impenetrable, "Have a passcode," Munro said. "Because that's gonna protect you if you lose your phone, if it's stolen. If they don't have your pass code there's really not much they can do."

In fact, he said one of the safest ways to pay is Apple or Android pay because your card details are never shared and aren't stored on your device at all. "Quite honestly it's more secure than having a credit card and sliding it through the magnetic strip," Munro said.

When it comes to magnetic strip cards, those are being phased out in favor of the new EMV chip cards.

The cards are placed in a reader that creates a unique code for that purchase. It can't be duplicated by criminals like magnetic strips.

Merchants like Craig Pokorny at Aporjon Leather and Luggage said this reduces the risk of massive breaches like Target and Home Depot. "Just seemed like a good idea to protect customers," Pokorny said. "Get in the game right away. There's a lining inside the wallet that wraps all the way around."

He also stocked up on RFID blocking wallets and sleeves. These protect against a form of electronic pickpocketing called "RFID skimming," a more rare and high tech way of stealing credit card information.

"So as long as your card or passport is in one of these protected wallets, it's not going to be scanned by somebody," Pokorny said.

But no technology is foolproof. If thieves get a hold of your credit card, they can still use those stolen numbers online.

The best way to stop ID theft is to stay on top of your own financial information. Monitor your bank statements daily, via app's or online. And get a free credit report annually at annualcreditreport.com. Any accounts you don't recognize may be signs of suspicious activity.

That's what Erin does, "my husband and I we're always making sure that was his charge or my charge and if something shows up we're not aware of, we're definitely calling the bank," Ellis said.

And it's that vigilance that gives her peace of mind during the busy holiday shopping season.
Related Topics:
shoppingonline shoppingholiday shoppingconsumer watchClovis
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