With just six more shopping days until Christmas, everybody's in a mad rush to finish up their shopping. Credit cards come out, and the potential for fraud goes up. If you're in the market for a Silicon Valley home, the last thing you need is to have your credit compromised, especially if you want to utilize one of those no money down loans. Follow these simple yet effective ways of protecting your credit during the holidays. That way, when you're ready to buy a Silicon Valley home, your good credit remains intact.
Protecting Your Credit During the Holidays
If you're like most people, you carry very little cash. Instead, you opt to pay with your credit or debit card. Each transaction leaves you open to credit card fraud. With online shopping on the rise, the chances for identity and credit card theft increases even more. Protecting your credit during the holidays as well as any other time of year comes down to being vigilant and practicing cautious usage of your cards.
First of all, most point of sale machines now include a microchip reader. If your card utilizes a chip, use the chip reader instead of swiping. This is the more secure method.
PINs are Your Friends
Next, you're used to entering a PIN (personal identification number) anytime you use your debit card. But did you know that you can use a PIN for your credit card as well? This adds an extra layer of protection. If someone does get a hold of your card, they're going to have to know your PIN in order to use it. Merely swiping or entering the credit card number won't be enough. Contact the number on the back of your credit card to activate the PIN feature.
No Debit Online
Also, many people prefer to shop online rather than wrestling the maddening crowds at brick and mortar stores. If this is the route you choose to take, never use your debit card online. By law, if a thief gets a hold of your account, you may be liable for up to $50 on a credit card. However, if the same thief nabs your debit card, you may be held accountable for $500 or more. As a precaution, always use a credit card online. You can post a payment to your card for the exact amount of your purchase separately. It may be an extra step, but it's worth it to avoid having a thief steal your bank information.
Read Your Monthly Statements
It's easy to let credit card statements get lost in the mountain of mail you receive. If you opt for the paperless billing, it's even easier. Always read your monthly statements as soon as they are available. Better yet, log in to your account online at least once a week. Look for questionable purchases. Don't rely on your credit card company or bank to contact you if something looks out of place. If you spot something, contact your credit card company right away.
Credit card companies can get hacked. Companies that use credit card readers can get hacked. Target, Staples, Kmart, Jimmy Johns...all of these companies have been hacked. And who can forget the huge Equifax breach revealed earlier this year? Don't ignore a "protect your credit" letter from your credit card company. Take a moment to read it thoroughly and follow whatever instructions they provide to help you protect your credit in the future.
Annual Credit Report Check
Finally, check your credit reports once a year. You're legally entitled to receive one free credit report from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax every 12 months. You can either rotate those to concentrate on one every four months. Or, you can pull all three at one time. Scan for any errors. Report errors to the appropriate agency right away. You'll also need to provide proof of the error. Visit any of these companies online. They have specific departments set up for credit disputes. Just follow their directions.
Protecting your credit during the holidays is essential. It's also important to be wary of potential credit card fraud throughout the rest of the year. But it's especially important to take care of any issues before you start looking for your next Silicon Valley home. It would be heartbreaking to find the perfect Silicon Valley property just to discover that your credit has been compromised.