6 Ways to Safeguard Your Credit While Holiday Shopping

The holidays can be a magical time for people to come together and enjoy each other's company. But it can also be a stressful period when everyone is hastily moving around trying to get their shopping done at the last minute. With all the craziness of the holidays, one thing that may be forgotten is the state of your credit. If you are not watchful, your credit may take a hit during this joyous time of year.

When not closely monitoring your credit, you can be susceptible to identity theft which can impact the state of your credit score and drain your finances. The Federal Trade Commission found that matters relating to identity theft topped its list of complaints in 2012. Racing around and getting everything done can make you lose track of time, but one thing you should not forget about is your credit. Here are just a few ways you can stay on top of your credit during this busy time of year:

Setting up preemptive measures
Monitoring your credit is a task that you should constantly be doing throughout the year, but it is something you should be more vigilante about during the holidays. Many credit providers offer methods of putting out alerts on your credit report to help you be aware of theft and one of these alerts is for fraud. If you or an identity thief asks for a credit extension, your creditor will notify you of the action before giving the go ahead. Especially during the holidays, you may want to extend your credit in order to get your shopping done and a fraud alert can help you put a stop to fake credit authorizations.

Freeze it out
Along with setting up a fraud alert to notify you if something happens, you can prevent any instance of deceit by simply setting up a security freeze. This security measure locks out your report so that no one, including you, can open a new line of credit. This may be an extreme measure to take, but if you have been a past victim of identity theft, then it may be wise to go this route. You can contact a credit bureau if you choose to go with this option.

Stop the risk yourself
Your credit provider or bureau can only do so much when it comes to protecting you during the holidays, so it may fall on you to get a few things done as well. This does not mean you have to barricade yourself in your home and not go outside, but there are simple ways to keep your credit safe while you are out shopping.

Chances are your local department store or mall will be jam-packed with people trying to get their holiday list checked off. This free-for-all may seem like nothing, especially if you are an experienced shopper, but be sure to keep your belongings close to you just in case. You never know if that casual bump can end up as someone stealing your wallet or purse with your credit card inside. If you find that that your credit card has been stolen during this time, quickly alert your credit provider and let them know about your situation. It is better to get this handled right away, rather than see a bunch of unauthorized purchases on your next statement.

Security shopping sites
If you have decided to forego the insanity of a mall, online shopping can also be a sufficient way to get things done, but can come with its own identity theft dangers. Before you hit the checkout button on a purchase, scan the website to make sure it is secure. A good rule of thumb is to check the URL and make sure the web address starts with "https://." If the web address has an S in it, then it is a secure site. One letter can make all the difference when making sure your credit is safe.

Recap your holiday spending
Once you have completed all your holiday preparations, be sure to go over all of your purchases. Taking a quick look after all your shopping can help you stay atop the state of your credit. Examining credit card statements and even your credit report can help you detect if you have had any illegal activity during this time and if your card or personal information has been stolen. If you spot any irregularities on these documents, such as unfamiliar purchases or new lines of credit, alert your providers immediately.

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