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There’s Nothing Like Financial Safety for the Holidays

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The holidays are here, which means retailers are decking the halls with deals!

Whether you’re shopping online, in person or both, Kala Kuhlthau, Vice President and Sulphur Branch Manager with Lakeside Bank, says it’s important to keep your money and identity safe. “It’s easy to be more careless during the hectic holiday season, but this makes you more likely to make a careless mistake that could lead to big financial problems.” She offers some advice for avoiding any not-so-jolly financial circumstances this year.

Make a Budget

Buying presents for the ones you love is exciting, but the holiday season shouldn’t send you into debt. Make a budget before you begin shopping. It’s impossible to avoid impulse purchases but knowing what you plan to spend ahead of time will keep you from going overboard.

Keep an Eye on Your Accounts

Be aware of the transactions being processed on your bank and credit card accounts. If you think your account has been compromised, call the bank or credit card company immediately.

Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is often not as secure as your personal internet at home. Entering credit card numbers on a public network can lead to trouble if a cybercriminal is scanning the Wi-Fi. To protect your information, make all online purchases at home or using your cellular data instead of Wi-Fi.

Extra tip: If you do make an online purchase in public, be aware of your surroundings. Don’t read your card number into a phone where others can hear you, and make sure no one is looking over your shoulder when entering your information online.

Beware of Scams

Email scams and robocalls increase this time of year asking for personal information, passwords or creating panic about your account. Remember, no reputable retailer or financial service will ever contact you with a frantic need for your information. If you receive an email or text message, do not click any links and delete the message immediately. Hang up on any caller that makes demands. If you have concerns, find a phone number for the business on their website and call them directly.

Protect Your Passwords

Two-thirds of consumers use a single common password for a variety of login credentials. With online shopping at its highest during the holiday season, hackers are actively looking to compromise your information. Take time before you begin grabbing the best deals to update even a few of your passwords. The annoyance of resetting your password is much less of a nuisance than dealing with fraud.

Watch for Red Flags

Scams are prevalent now more than ever and sometimes they are hard to spot. One sign a deal may not be true is a sense of urgency to buy now or unusual payment options like gift card or crypto payments only. If you are shopping online and are not familiar with the seller it is a good idea to use a credit card for your purchase.

Shop With Reputable Retailers

Remember that it is easier than ever for anyone to set up an online shop or a product ad. If you find a product you love but aren’t sure about the seller, do a quick search for information and reviews to make sure your money isn’t going into the wrong hands. Always remember if a deal seems too good to be true it probably is.

Be Aware of Fees

Pay close attention to all pricing information for anything you buy. When you get to the payment screen double check your shipping cost and any other charges like insurance, special handling, fake COVID-related costs or product shortage related fees.

Shop Smart

Before making that impulse purchase or grabbing a great deal, take a moment to consider if it is really what you want to get. If you wouldn’t buy the item at full price, is it worth it with a discount? Focusing on products you know you will get your money’s worth from will save you the time and clutter later during spring cleaning.

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