With the holidays fast approaching, how are you managing the struggles of holiday shopping while ensuring your personal financial security? I work as part of the IT help desk team at First Business, and as an IT professional, I start to get nervous at this time of year. The stress of holiday preparation in combination with year-end activities, causes many people to slip from their normal financial security practices. Here are a few tips I recommend to my clients. I hope they are valuable to you as well:

DON’T PAY AT THE PUMP! When purchasing gas for your vehicle, pay inside at the register. I know you might be in a rush or don’t want to walk all the way to the store, but it’s the safer option for financial security. There have been several reports of gas pumps being hacked with scanners that can steal your credit/debit card information. Paying inside dramatically increases your card security.

Be cautious of charities calling you asking for donations. A lot of charities may be asking for year-end donations, and you being in the holiday spirit may feel inclined to give, but you must make sure they are legitimate. This is one of the most popular phishing scams that criminals use to steal money. They will ask for your credit card number…DON’T give it to them. If you’re interested in supporting a nonprofit that has called, you could ask them to send information about the charity (which provides an opportunity to validate its legitimacy) or you could indicate that you will contact the company directly to make a gift (again to take time to validate whether or not the nonprofit exists).

DON’T USE PUBLIC WI-FI. If you do, you increase the risk of hackers stealing your banking information or even worse YOUR IDENTITY. If you plan on doing some shopping online, make sure that you’re using a password-protected Wi-Fi network. I discussed ways to avoid a breach of your personal information in my previous blog.

Double check! When shopping with your debit or credit card, be sure to monitor your online bank account regularly for suspicious and invalid charges. If you see one on your statement contact your bank immediately.

When you’re preparing for the upcoming holiday season, remember to be mindful of the risks associated with getting a good deal. What other measures do you take to keep your financial security safe during the holidays?

May you and your family have a safe and happy holiday!