The modern-day fraud Grinch can strike under many guises during the holiday season, and your friends at the Bank of Utah want to make sure you’re protected. Unfortunately, as the holiday season rolls around, criminals capitalize on the inherent goodness of humans as we embrace this time of generosity and thankfulness. As an information security officer, I want to encourage your financial and information security, by giving you some simple preventative measures you can take so disaster won’t interrupt your festivities.


1. Use Legitimate Websites When Shopping Online

There are certain signs that indicate whether a website is secure. A secure network can be identified by the lock on the far left of the URL bar, and the web address will begin with “https://” instead of “http:”.

2. Use Credit Instead of Debit

While debit cards have the advantage of protecting you from going into debt, they don’t compare to credit cards when it comes to safety. Credit cards offer a higher level of protection for preventing credit card fraud, as credit card companies usually monitor suspicious activity. By law, credit card users are allowed not only to dispute fraudulent activity, but also charges that are the result of merchant error. In contrast, should a criminal make an unauthorized charge or a vendor accidentally charge the incorrect amount on your debit card, your bank account will be affected immediately. When using a credit card, you also have more time to dispute a credit card charge. With debit cards, you must report the billing error within two business days of the transaction or the liability cap increases drastically. After 60 days, most debit card users may no longer have any protection available at all. As an added perk, credit cards allow you to earn rewards on your purchases.

3. Be Aware of Skimmers

Despite the level of security offered by credit cards, protecting credit card information can still be a challenge at payment terminals. Fraudsters are known to attach skimmer devices to credit card terminals such as ATMS and at gas stations. They can be difficult to detect and they harvest personal data from every person who swipes their card. In most cases, attackers will also place a camera in the vicinity with a view of the number pad in order to obtain personal identification numbers (PIN)s. Although chip cards were implemented to increase protection, classic skimming attacks can still pick up information from the magnetic strip located on the back of the card. And when Utah banks began issuing chip cards, criminals adapted to the new security barriers, creating shimmers. Shimmers are thin devices inserted inside the card reader. When you slide your card in, the shimmer reads the data from the card’s chip, similar to the way a skimmer reads information from the card’s magstripe. Though these devices can be difficult to detect, they can be identified through a few simple steps. Here’s how to avoid credit card information from being stolen:

  • When you approach an ATM or other credit card reader, check for tampering. If something looks different – such as a different color or material, graphics aren’t aligned correctly, or anything else that seems even slightly off – don’t use that ATM. If you can’t see any visual difference, wiggle everything. ATMs are solidly constructed and generally don’t have any
    jiggling or loose parts. Lastly, wiggle your card as you insert it; this won’t interfere with the transaction, but it will foil the skimmer.

4. Be Alert for Charity Donation Scams

When you decide to support a cause you care about, make sure your hard-earned money goes to the worthy cause rather than a fraudster by doing some research. Search the charity with phrases like “best charity” or “highly rated charity. If you already have an organization in mind, search its name in conjunction with “complaint,” “review,” “rating” or “scam.” For your security, make the donation via credit card or check. If an organization asks for donations in cash, gift card or by wiring money—don’t do it. Be mindful if you feel rushed through the process, because you risk the chance of making simple mistakes, which scammers count on.
Don’t take the bait. Scammers will often send you an email thanking you for your donation you did not make or use names that sound almost identical to real charities. Remember, if you see any red flags or if you’re not sure how a charity will use your donation, consider giving to a different charity.

5. Monitor Your Accounts

Always check over your credit card statements and credit reports, especially during high-volume shopping periods like the holiday season. Remain vigilant and inquire about any suspicious activity. Monitoring your accounts is a great example of how to stop identity theft before it escalates.

As always, Bank of Utah is here to answer all questions and help you through the process.