Dayia Shurtleff, marketing assistant, Lewiston State Bank

There is a new kind of Grinch out to steal Christmas, and it might not be who you would expect. According to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research, identity theft soared to an all-time high last year with retail fraud rising more than 31 percent over the holiday season.

Taking extra security precautions in the winter months can help keep your holiday savings in your hands. We have compiled a list of 10 things to consider and help prevent holiday hackers.

  1. Use a separate account for holiday spending. Open a separate checking account for your holiday funds. This can limit the amount of funds available to fraudsters if they happen to get your card information while you are making purchases. It also has the added benefit of helping you stay on budget.
  2. Only shop on secure sites you trust. While you are shopping for the “perfect” gift, you may end up on some unfamiliar sites. Before entering your payment information, be sure the website is secure. Check to see if the URL matches the primary URL of the site and that you have not been redirected to an unfamiliar third-party site.
  3. Keep receipts. When shopping online or elsewhere, be sure to ask for and keep your receipts from your holiday purchases. Check your accounts frequently to be sure that your receipts match the amounts withdrawn from your account. Often, fraudsters will only charge small amounts at a time, which can make it difficult to catch quickly. Frequently comparing your receipts can help you spot fraud.
  4. Use online banking. Another way to help monitor the transactions on your account is to sign up for online banking at your financial institution. Many online banking platforms allow you to see all recent transactions and can alert you when something seems out of the ordinary for your typical spending habits.
  5. Sign up for alerts. Check with your financial institution about what fraud protection they provide, and check to see if they have alert systems in place. Some financial institutions allow you to set up alerts when there are withdrawals over a certain amount. This can help you catch large fraudulent transactions quickly. Alerts from banks can be typically sent via email or text.
  6. Share your travel plans. In order to prevent fraud, many financial institutions will have limitations on where your card will work. For example, some financial institutions may decline out-of-state transactions. It is a good idea to let your financial institution know of any travel plans you have to avoid interruption of your card purchases.
  7. Use credit cards for purchases. Depending on your financial institution, credit cards may have additional fraud protection that is unavailable for debit cards. VISA® provides a zero-liability agreement, which protects you from losing money on fraudulent activity. Money taken from a credit card is not connected to your other checking or savings accounts. Fraudulent activity on your credit card could have less of an effect on your daily life than fraud on your debit card.
  8. Avoid using public wifi. Using public WIFI can occasionally open you up to weaknesses in security. With the recent discovery of the KRACK vulnerability, it is important to make purchases on secure networks you trust, and only after you have updated your device with the latest version of its operating system. Try to avoid purchasing items on public networks like coffee shops and campuses that have many unknown users on the network.
  9. Avoid responding to unsolicited texts and emails. If you receive a text message or email from a company promising amazing deals, it is good practice to go to the business’s website directly instead of clicking on the links provided in the message. It is common for hackers to make identical versions of a reputable business’s website to collect your information.
  10. Avoid links on social media platforms. Similar to links on emails and text messages, it is hard to verify who is posting links on social media platforms. When you see a link for a good deal, go to the website directly instead of following the link posted to social media.