Shopping on Black Friday? Keep Your Cards Secure
Black Friday is almost here, and that can mean only one thing: The holiday shopping season is about to kick into full gear. While many consumers think of Black Friday as a chance to score some great deals on holiday gifts, it's likely many people will be shopping a little more cautiously this year because of the now-infamous Target credit card breach last November.
Black Friday is almost here, and that can mean only one thing: The holiday shopping season is about to kick into full gear. While many consumers think of Black Friday as a chance to score some great deals on holiday gifts, it’s likely that many people will be shopping a little more cautiously this year because of the now-infamous Target credit card breach last November.
And even though credit card fraud and retail hacking has been a hot topic throughout 2014, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself and your bank account from being jeopardized, according to Sean Sullivan, a security expert from F-Secure. While there is no one bulletproof method for ensuring your private information stays out of harm’s way, shopping online is an easier way to manage your expenses and keep track of your spending, Sullivan said.
With retail operations becoming the de facto target for most hackers, one way to get your favorite deals while maintaining your peace of mind is to set up virtual credit cards for each of your favorite retail websites, Sullivan said. Most banks will allow users to create randomly generated 16-digit numbers that are connected to their credit cards with allotted credit limits, which then can be used in place of your actual account information on retailer sites such as Amazon and Walmart. This way, if a company’s database is breached, hackers can only access whatever funds are dedicated to your specific virtual account, leaving your main balance untouched.
Alternatively, users can purchase virtual gift cards with their credit card information and apply that credit to their own account, essentially creating a spending limit for each particular site. So, for instance, if you need to spend $300 at Sears for holiday purchases, buy yourself a $300 gift card to use instead of making separate purchases. Sullivan said this helps minimize the number of transactions listed on your credit statement and also helps you to know when to stop spending by setting predetermined limits.
Most importantly, shoppers should remain in regular contact with their credit card companies and remember to check their statements each month. Sullivan said one of the biggest mistakes shoppers make is failing to read through their monthly statement, which could lead to unauthorized or accidental charges slipping through the cracks. You can even set up alerts with your credit card company to notify you whenever a purchase exceeds a certain limit, so you can keep track of big ticket purchases and minimize fraudulent activity.
Whether you decide to shop online or at your favorite retailer this holiday season, stay vigilant and avoid unnecessarily exposing your financial information to avoid potential hacks or identity theft. And always remember to double-check your statements online to avoid being duped.