Safe holiday shopping after SCDOR breach - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Safe holiday shopping after SCDOR breach

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Set a budget. Create a list, check it twice, and make sure you review all financial statements carefully. Set a budget. Create a list, check it twice, and make sure you review all financial statements carefully.

SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - The holiday shopping season is fast approaching. Whether you plan to make purchases with the click of a mouse or brave the mall with hundreds of others looking for a great deal, there are safety tips you need to follow.

Some safety features can keep even you from using your own credit card. If you have placed a freeze on your account, you will be unable to sign up for any store credit cards.

"When signing up for these cards, the cashier needs to perform a quick credit check at the counter. If you have a freeze, they won't be able to, so you will be denied," explains Christopher St. John with Carolina Wealth Advisors.

In addition, some banks and credit card companies have fraud alerts that will freeze your account if they detect any suspicious activity. This is a safety feature that will kick in if they notice any purchases made out of town or in unusually large amounts.

"Before you travel or make expensive purchases, make sure you notify your bank or credit company. Let them know your travel plans so they don't deny your transactions, causing you a hassle at the check-out," suggests St.John.

Monitor your credit report throughout the holiday season. While you are more likely to be making more purchases over the next few weeks, experts say it will be easier for you to miss a fraudulent charge.

"I would suggest that during the next several months, not to wait to get your statement in the mail but to log on to your account, double check your transactions, match them up to your receipts to make sure you're the one buying what you're buying and there's no transactions you haven't authorized," says St. John.

The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs says the following tips can help consumers shop wisely.

If Cyber Monday is more your scene rather than waiting in long, cold lines at 3 a.m., make sure you're shopping safely from the comfort of your living room.

  • Use antivirus or antispyware software and a firewall. Make sure to update them regularly.
  • Pay by credit or charge card. They offer the best consumer protections.
  • Look for a Secure Checkout. Does the website start with "https" (the "s" stands for secure) when you are checking out? Also, look for a lock icon.

Looking for a great deal? Beware of penny auctions. Bidding is not free, unlike traditional auction sites. If you win, you pay for each bid in addition to the price of the item, shipping and handling and other fees. For example: The site posts a $300 smart phone. You place 100 bids at one dollar each, so you will pay $100 whether you win or lose. If you happen to win, you are responsible for paying $100 for the bids plus the cost of the phone (which increases 1 penny with every bid). Say the final price of the phone is $100, you will be out $200 plus the cost for shipping and any other transaction fees.

Whether you're clicking your selections or browsing the racks at your local mall, there are general shopping tips to follow.

  • Set a budget. Create a list, check it twice, and make sure you review all financial statements carefully.
  • Get a copy of the store's return/refund policy. Are full refunds given, or does the retailer only offer store credit? Save your receipts.
  • Want to finance a purchase or get new credit? Make sure you shop around for the best deal and "thaw" out any security freezes you may have on your credit reports.

For more tips on holiday shopping, view SCDCA's Spotlight "Be a Savvy Shopper this Holiday Season." Learn more about how to "thaw" a security freeze. Click on the "ID Theft Resources" button once the page opens.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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