As 2021 winds down and the holiday season approaches, many of us still feel that we have a lot to do: holiday shopping, preparing to travel or host family and friends, and decorating the house. While it may be the most wonderful time of the year, it can also be stressful. And unfortunately, it also takes more work to ensure you, your family, and your home stay safe through it all.
Here are five tips for staying safe this holiday season.
1. Beware of Cybercriminals
Keeping secure in your online purchases is important all year. But the holiday season is notorious for online scams of all types. With digital sales and transactions increasing year over year, cybercriminals are finding ways to scam customers online.
Americans lost more than $145 million in 2020 to coronavirus-related fraud. And 80.5% of online consumers reported losing money to online purchase scams since the pandemic began.
But online scams aren’t so scary when you know what to look for. Academy Bank is ready to help you spot those scams as an extra layer of protection for your account. We want every customer to become a pro at spotting a phishing scam -- and stop bank impostors in their tracks -- especially during the holidays.
These steps can keep you safe when it comes to your personal and/or financial information:
- Always think twice before clicking
- Monitor your accounts frequently for suspicious activity
- Always create strong and unique login IDs and passwords
- Know the best practices for wire transfers or use alternate options like Zelle® through Digital Banking for sending money
2. Keep an Eye on Your Finances
One way to ensure your finances are secure this holiday season is to simply keep a close eye on your accounts. And depending on your current financial situation, keeping an eye on your finances may be easier than you think.
If you already have a checking account with digital banking, you likely already have access to your personal finances right at your fingertips. It’s on your mobile phone, tablet or your computer through digital banking. Digital banking is free and easy once you learn your way around.
Consider these tips for keeping a close watch when it comes to your finances:
- Use Digital Banking and account alerts with push notifications, as well as email or text alerts* to monitor your account balances and account activity.
- If you have made any recent deposits, please keep in mind that deposits are subject to verification and may not be unavailable for immediate withdrawal.
- Don’t forget to consider any pending items such as checks you've written that have not reached the bank or pre-authorized ACH debits that have not yet posted to your account.
If you find suspicious activity on your account, it’s always easier to reverse it when you catch it as soon as possible.
3. Practice Safe Shopping Habits
While some people prefer online shopping, plenty of people will also venture out to stores in order to find gifts for loved ones this year. And while your risk of scam is lower when you’re making purchases in-person, there are other dangers to watch out for.
Shopping with children -- especially when they may not have been out of the house as much in the past year -- can be tricky. They may be easily distracted by a new toy or colorful holiday display in the store and wander off without you knowing. If possible, it may be better to leave children at home with another family member or trusted friend. But ensure you have a plan if you and your children are separated, such as a meeting place. Or, teach your children to find a store employee for help.
Other habits can also help make your shopping experience safer. Try to shop before it gets dark if possible; if you can’t go out until after nightfall, ask a friend or family member to come with you. Keep your wallet and valuables close to you in order to deter thieves or pickpockets. Ensure your phone is charged in case of emergency.
4. Protect Your Home
Outdoor decorations may be a symbol of happiness and holiday spirit. But criminals and other bad actors may see an opportunity instead. These displays -- indoor or outside -- may give off an impression of wealth, which could leave you a target for thieves.
Be sure you lock all your windows and doors when leaving the house. If you’re going to be away visiting family for a few days or more, consider putting your lights on a timer, pausing your mail/newspaper delivery, and having a friend or neighbor come check on your house while you’re gone.
Even if you’re staying in town, porch pirates may be on the lookout for holiday deliveries they can swipe from you. Remember: some criminals may even pose as package delivery services, so be cautious and remind your children not to open the door to strangers -- not even the mailman.
5. Watch Out for Fire Hazards
The holidays are a wonderful time of year, often celebrated with delicious food, Christmas trees or menorahs, and roaring fireplaces. But all of these can pose a risk of fire and should be carefully watched in order to keep everyone -- and your home -- safe.
Candles and open flames should never be left unattended, especially around children or pets. Be sure to dispose of wrapping paper in a way that it can’t catch on fire from a stray spark. And old Christmas lights can be damaged or fray, which could catch your real or artificial tree on fire.
Academy Bank Has Your Back
At Academy Bank, we know the importance of safety. No matter what life throws at you, we’re committed to being your partner through it all.
We wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy holiday season.
*Mobile carrier fees may apply