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Holiday shopping season ID theft and fraud attacks have been increasing every year, with 2019 expected to reach all-time highs. This season, before you go surfing online for that perfect gift, take note: the best way to thwart a crime of opportunity is to arm yourself with knowledge.

Here are 6 tips to keep you safe and help you maintain holiday cheer.

  1. Check Statements
    Through the holiday shopping season, give your bank account and credit card statements more than just a cursory glance. If you don’t actually receive a statement, go online and check your transaction activity. Don’t be afraid to call your bank if you see even minor oddities.
  2. Don’t Share Personal Information Online
    Financial institutions like Atlantic Union Bank will never ask you for personal information (for example, a debit card PIN or Social Security number) via email or text. If someone contacts you online for this information, don’t give it out. Fraudsters may also pose as representatives from your bank and actually call you on the phone to request personal info. If you have a reason to be suspicious, politely end the call. In any event, call your financial institution back on their main number if you have any security concerns.
  3. Gift Card Safety
    Don’t use gift cards for payments not related to making a purchase from the store it’s issued from. Don’t provide gift card numbers, or the numbers from the back of the cards, to anyone as payment or use them for making donations. Gift cards are like cash. And, like cash, gift cards are untraceable. If a scam-artist gets your gift card info, there isn’t anything you can do.
  4. Beware of Fake Sellers
    Know who you are buying from. A website with deals too good to be true, is probably fake. Bogus sites could also be riddled with pop-up ads. Look closely at retailers you have never heard of. Read their reviews, if they have any. If you’re still not convinced, find that great deal somewhere else.
  5. Check Cashing
    Don’t cash checks for strangers. Ever. That’s a given. Also, don't return funds for overpayment especially when selling an item online. You don’t want to allow scammers to overpay and provide them cash back..
  6. Avoid Public Wi-fi When Shopping
    Completing financial transactions that involve personal information such as account numbers and login info, is not the best use of the free wi-fi at your local coffee shop. Save those types of transactions for known secure networks like your home’s.