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safe holiday shopping, holiday shopping, shopping, holiday, holiday scams
Stay Safe During the Holiday SeasonBy MSGCU on 11/13/2023


The holidays are quickly approaching. Unfortunately, this time of year is also full of financial dangers, many of which you won’t hear about on the morning news or read about online. Read our tips to avoid becoming a holiday victim.

Keep an eye on your surroundings

Crowded malls and stores are savory opportunities for pickpockets. You can deter thieves by:

  • Wearing purses across your body instead of over one arm.
  • Keeping wallets and money in a front pocket or inside a closed jacket.
  • Leave the house with the bare minimum, such as your driver’s license or ID, health insurance card and your payment method(s).

Consider RFID card sleeves or wallets

Radio-frequency identification, or RFID, sleeves and accessories are lined with material that blocks criminals from scanning your cards and personal identifying information. While many think to use when traveling, the busy holiday season is also a great time to use a RFID wallet or sleeves. They help protect your data from being read by wireless scanners then digitally copied and stolen.

Rest assured, your MSGCU debit and credit cards are protected from RFID scanners thanks to the security built into the card’s chip.

Consider using Pay-by-phone

Pay-by-phone (also known as mobile wallet) is a convenient payment option that offers additional fraud protection and security features not available with cash. A malicious card reader or RFID skimmer won’t be able to collect your card information when you use pay-by-phone and if you don’t bring your wallet, no one can steal it.

While the option to pay by phone is available in most retailers now, not all are equipped yet, so make sure you check with the store and/or have a backup payment method handy.

Don’t leave mail in the mailbox

Thieves are not opposed to checking mailboxes to obtain your information. Make sure to get your mail every day, and if possible, avoid sending checks through your mailbox, especially if it’s unlocked. It’s not hard for thieves to grab your correspondence out of the mailbox, whether it has the power company’s name on it or is shaped like a holiday card. Drop mail containing checks into a USPS mailbox, bring them into your post office branch or hand them to your postal carrier in person. We recommend following this tip year-round, as theft happens outside of the holiday season too.

A convenient alternative is to set up Bill Pay. Bill Pay allows you to schedule your payments so they’re always on time while also minimizing the number of checks you write. Plus, the service is free.

Understand the dangers of every form of payment

Every form of payment has its risk.

  • Cash is portable and untraceable, so it’s a target for thieves.
  • Cards without the small square chips are vulnerable to skimmers. Skimmers are devices thieves use at card readers at registers, gas stations and even some ATMs.
  • Some cards with chips can also be skimmed by people with specialized equipment who bump up next to you (see the RFID section above) – again, your MSGCU debit and credit cards are protected from RFID scanners.
  • All cards, cash and mobile phones are in danger of being stolen.
  • Some experts say that check fraud will be the most dangerous type of identity theft.

Even if you attempt to return to the age of bartering, a thief could run off with the cow you were going to trade for another gift card.

Don’t panic, instead, recognize the dangers and take reasonable precautions. Do you know what kind of fraud protection you have on each of your credit cards? Any card which you’re unsure about needs to stay home until you find out. Unsure about a small boutique’s cyber security? Bring cash.

Michigan Schools and Government Credit Union offers a wide variety of fraud protections and cutting-edge cybersecurity for all of our cards and online bill pay features, so if you have any doubts, just bring your debit card or a credit card with the MSGCU logo on it.

Bring your own bag

Shopping bags are a great way for stores to advertise, but they also advertise to thieves. Some bags may even include receipts for items paid for with cash; criminals return the items and then keep your hard-earned money. Don’t make it easier for thieves. Instead, bring a tote bag that zips up or unlabeled grocery bags.

Take a trip to the car

Carrying too much is asking for trouble. It makes you less mobile, you’re less likely to feel someone remove an item from your bags, and even if no one hassles you, it’s a good way to end up with back pain. If you’re enduring a marathon trip to the mall, take time every few stores to take your purchases out to the car. Keep receipts in your wallet and take pictures of the bags you put in your trunk (where thieves can’t see) so you have a record of what is in your vehicle. Check to your individual car insurance policy to make sure it includes coverage for stolen items. The receipts and pictures of bags in your trunk will help if you need to make a claim.

Treat yourself to a holiday coffee

You’re probably safer if you’re alert, but that’s just an excuse. Holiday coffee drinks are delicious, you want one, and we just gave you the perfect excuse to justify indulging in a peppermint mocha (of course, if your budget allows). You’re welcome.

While it may seem like a lot, taking these precautions and following the tips we’ve shared will help keep you and your accounts safe so you can enjoy the holiday season. As always, we’re here to help if you need us, and can even provide that boost of caffeine with a cup of joe in our lobby while you’re out shopping. And if you need that last-minute gift card, MSGCU can help with prepaid gift cards too.

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Category: Security

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