A woman looks at her credit card while also using a laptop.

Five Tips to Protect Your Accounts This Holiday Season

Keep Your Accounts and Money Secure

Fraud increases as much as 30% during the holidays, as consumer activity rises and the opportunities to steal your sensitive information and use it for malicious purposes abound. Your financial security is important to us at First Federal. We will always take the necessary precautions to keep your accounts safe. Here are some helpful tips you can follow to fight fraud this holiday season:

Make Sure the Cards You Use Offer Fraud Protection – As a general rule, credit cards provide stronger protections against fraud. Credit card issuers watch for potentially fraudulent charges and proactively work to combat them. When you detect fraud yourself, you can dispute a charge and get it reversed quickly. You won’t be liable for unauthorized charges. Credit cards are your best option for online shopping, large or electronics purchases, and when you are traveling. First Federal offers comprehensive fraud protection with our personal and business credit cards. You’re covered whether buying gifts for family and friends, or taking your customers out for a meal. A First Federal credit card is a great way to build credit and conveniently make purchases online and in-person. With our uChoose Rewards card for personal and business accounts, you can earn points as you spend. And, all of our credit cards are backed by the power of Visa.

There can be benefits to using a debit card over credit, however. Debit cards help you keep to your budget. You can’t spend money you don’t have and accrue debt. With a personal or business First Federal debit card, you control where your card can be used, set limits for purchases, and can turn the card on and off using our Mobile Banking app from your cell phone. Earn points on purchases with our uChoose Rewards program. We also offer Flex Cards accounts, which limit the exposure to your primary checking account. Transfer money from your primary checking account to your Flex Card Account and use it to make your purchases. First Federal works with Star Network to process our debit cards. If the Star Network detects any unusual activity on your card, a representative will call you to verify the activity. And all our debit cards use chip card security, which offers greater fraud protection.

Avoid Making Mobile Purchases via an Unsecured Connection – Mobile devices impact every aspect of our lives today, including the way we make purchases. You can locate free WiFi almost anywhere, from airplanes and airports, to hotels, libraries, retailers, and restaurants. In most cases, if you have your phone set up to look for WiFi networks to join as a way to limit your cellular data usage, your device will automatically connect. Sometimes you may be prompted to join. One thing to always remember is this — these public networks are not secure, and any sensitive information you share while on them can be intercepted by others. You are safer using your phone carrier’s encrypted cellular network to make mobile purchases, or your home’s password-protected WiFi. Instead of clicking on links in emails, online ads, or social media, always navigate directly to a retailer’s website. And make sure that there is an, “Https” in the URL, indicating it is secure.

Be on the Alert for Scams – An email arrives in your inbox claiming there is a problem with your account, and it has been placed on hold until you fill out the attached form and return it. You know not to click on that link and share your account numbers, date of birth, or social security number. And to avoid giving that information over the phone when someone calls you claiming to be your financial institution. But there is other information fraudsters can use to access your accounts, and your money. Social media, “games” circulate regularly where people are encouraged to share, “fun” information about themselves in a Get to Know You way, for example. Where were you born? What was your first pet’s name? What street did you live on growing up? Who is your favorite sports team? These are common security questions on financial platforms and websites. When you, play these, “games,” you are potentially providing your answers to those security questions. If your social media accounts are public, get hacked, or you don’t personally know everyone you are connected to online, you could unwittingly be giving someone the opportunity to access accounts in your name. So be sure to pass on that Facebook status update everyone is posting sharing all the states they have lived in.

Check Your Credit Activity Frequently – In addition to keeping track of your own purchases, you’ll want to keep tabs on your accounts for any irregular or questionable activity. The sooner you can flag potential spam, the quicker we can help you resolve the issue. Calling your local First Federal branch and setting up text alerts is an easy way to monitor your account. Another great tool is our Two-Way Text Alerts. If we detect suspicious activity, we'll send you a text message and ask you to verify the transaction. You can also freeze your credit through the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. It is free and has no impact on your credit score. When you freeze your credit, no one can apply for any accounts, cards, or lines of credit in your name, including you. If you’re not actively shopping for a credit card or loan, freezing your credit over the holidays is wise. You can continue to use your current cards for all your purchases. And you can unfreeze your credit at any time without penalty.

Reach Out If You Suspect You Have Been a Victim – First Federal will never call or email and ask for private information. If you receive a communication you feel could be fraudulent, contact us directly. Call Customer Care at 877-499-0572 or stop by your local branch and speak to one of our employees in person. Have the suspicious communication with you so you can share the details. If you responded to a communication and fear the worst, we’ll work with you to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Fraud can happen to anyone, even if you are vigilant about taking precautions.

The holidays can be a busy and stressful time. Fraudsters are counting on you to be distracted and to make decisions that will put you at risk. Block fraud by knowing how to protect yourself, so you can enjoy all the holidays have to offer.

From all of us at First Federal, we wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

A woman looks at her credit card while also using a laptop.