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Monitor your money closely during the shopping season

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

While you are out hunting for the perfect gifts, beware of those who could be taking advantage of the season of giving by stalking your money.

Unfortunately, thieves and fraudsters are just as much a part of the holidays as decorations and family gatherings.

“New technologies are constantly being developed to steal sensitive information from consumers, including during the holidays,” said Sissy Osteen, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension resource management specialist. “The only way to really protect ourselves is to understand how thieves operate, stay alert and put some common sense precautions in place.”

Some of those common sense precautions involve memorizing the PIN to your debit card, shielding others from watching as you input your PIN and making a habit of putting away your debit or credit card immediately after every transaction.

“If you prefer to shop with cash, be sure to get a receipt for all your purchases. Also avoid flashing bills openly while you’re in public,” Osteen said.

When it comes to shopping online, make sure you are operating on a secure site. The web addresses for secure sites usually begin with https and sites with secure portals will more than likely advertise that feature.

“As an added layer of protection, you can stick with better-known online outlets to increase your chances of a safe and authentic shopping experience,” Osteen said. “Consumers also have the option of using websites such as, which allow users to verify online retailers, even if they have changed names, and search for the best prices for products across multiple online outlets.”

A few other easy safeguards include checking your wallet each evening for your debit and credit cards, reviewing your bank statement online to verify all purchases are yours and scrambling the passwords to important accounts to make them more difficult to decipher.

“Stay away from using family or pet names or other easily identifiable information as passwords,” Osteen said. “In reviewing your account statements, dispute any charges you believe are not yours. If you lose your debit or credit card, report it immediately. In the case of credit cards, your liability is $50 if you report it as soon as you know it’s missing.”

Finally, after the holidays, check your credit report. Everyone is entitled to one free report each year from each of the three major credit agencies. Visit to request a report and download it.

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