Another Perspective — Tips for a safe holiday shopping season

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By Ben White

For the Optic

With the holiday season in full swing, a growing number of people are expected to shop online with their computers and mobile devices. No matter how a customer chooses to shop — through online sites, mobile devices, telephone, or at the store — it is important to stick to your budget and safeguard your confidential information.

To help manage your finances during the holidays, consider following these important guidelines:

Make a list of everything you need to buy before going shopping, so you are not tempted to overspend. Stick to your list and budget to help you stay within your spending limit. Keep your list handy for use in following years.

Set an expense budget. Remember, the people receiving your gifts would not want you to spend more than you can afford. If your budget is tight, ask your family and friends if you can draw names for gift giving. Handmade gifts can be a good alternative. They’re more personal, which is an added benefit.

Do not disrupt your bill paying or savings habits over the holidays. It’s nice to give gifts, but it’s more important to keep your finances on track. You can also enroll in alerts to help you stay on top of your money, such as when a deposit is made or if there’s a low balance.

Take advantage of sales. Watch for sales at your favorite stores to stock up on items, and remember that buying in bulk during a sale helps save both time and money. If you are going to the mall, don’t forget your list and budget.

Remember, too, that you may find great deals online and that many companies offer free shipping for online purchases.

Go Online. If you’re not using your bank’s online statements, now is a good time to start. Review your prior year’s holiday list and spending to determine where you can cut back. If you spent a lot on entertaining, consider planning a potluck or asking guests to bring their favorite dessert or drink to share.

To help protect your personal and financial information during the holiday shopping season, be sure to review these critical steps:

• Be careful what you disclose: Be wary of special holiday offers or requests for personal or financial information via e-mail, text message, phone, or website from interactions you didn’t initiate. If you’re suspicious about a request for your information, verify that the request is legitimate by calling the number on the company’s website or billing statement.

• While social websites help keep people in touch with friends and family, it’s important to remember not to share full birthdates, place of birth, pet’s name, children’s names, or names of schools attended, especially if this information could be used as a clue to account passwords or security questions.

• Monitor purchase activity: Remember to review your account activity regularly, especially when you’re shopping and spending more than usual. Enroll in online and mobile banking so you can view a snapshot of your accounts while on the go and monitor your purchase activity online from home. Also, sign up for transaction alerts for your checking account and credit card to receive text or e-mail notification about account activity.

• Ensure you’re protected: Check with your financial institution to ensure you’re covered if funds are removed from your account without your permission. Wells Fargo guarantees that its retail customers will be covered for 100 percent of the funds in their Wells Fargo account in the unlikely event that someone you haven’t authorized removes those funds through Wells Fargo Online or Wells Fargo Mobile Banking. Customers are responsible for protecting their password and account information and for providing prompt notification of an unauthorized transaction.

Wells Fargo cardholders are also protected by our Zero Liability protection. This means that a cardholder is not liable for any unauthorized transactions made at merchants, over the phone, on the Internet or at the ATM, when promptly reported.

• Protect your mobile, laptop, desktop computers and use caution: Keep your computer operating system, browser, and anti-virus software updated to ensure the highest level of protection. Updating anti-virus software on your computer is an initial step toward protecting yourself from malware. Also, remember to avoid downloading suspicious attachments or plug-ins.

It’s also a good idea to regularly change your online banking passwords. Be sure your online banking username and password differ from those used on other websites. And, when making purchases online, be sure the website address starts with “https.” The “s” helps ensure that your information will be passed along in a secure manner.

• Know what to do if you lose your handbag or wallet: Take a moment to inventory or photocopy the personal and financial information you carry in your handbag or wallet, including items such as your driver’s license, bank cards, checks, and credit cards. Store your inventory list or photocopies in a secure location. This important step will help you know whom to contact if your handbag or wallet is lost or stolen.

For more fraud prevention tips, customers can visit the Wells Fargo Fraud Information Center at https://www.wellsfargo.com/privacy-security/fraud/.

Ben White is a Community Banking District Manager at Wells Fargo. He oversees the Las Vegas branches and can be reached at c.ben.white@wellsfargo.com.