How to Shop Safely This Holiday Season

How to Shop Safely This Holiday Season

December 7, 2020

Tagged As: Personal, Business

The holiday season is here, and though many people will change how they shop this year, the need to stay alert against fraud remains the same. Because whether it’s taking place in-person or online, the busiest shopping time of the year is also when scammers are most active. Keep these tips in mind to keep your account safe.

Monitor Account Activity

You can use Hills Bank Online on your desktop or smartphone to keep an eye on your transactions at any time (though for transactions made on weekends or holidays, you’ll need to wait until the next business day for processing). If you see a transaction you didn’t make, you can report it as fraud using the steps below.

Account Fraud

Here’s what to do if you suspect fraud on your account.

Take immediate action:

If you have lost your debit card or suspect it is being used fraudulently, you can freeze your debit card yourself by logging into Hills Bank Online, selecting “Hills Bank Cards” on the navigation bar, followed by “Turn Debit Card On/Off.”

Submit a transaction dispute

If you see a fraudulent transaction on your statement or transaction list, log into Hills Bank Online. Then:

  1. Click on the relevant account
  2. Select “Options” on the right side (the three vertical dots)
  3. Select “Dispute Transactions” and check off each suspect transaction

We’ll review the transaction(s) you selected and take action as needed.

Give us a call:

If you think you see fraud or other suspicious activity on your account, please reach out to our Customer Contact Center as soon as possible. We’re available by calling 1-800-445-5725 (1-800-HILLSBK):

Customer Contact Center Hours: Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. - noon

For a lost or stolen credit card after hours, call 1-800-423-7503.

For lost or stolen ATM/Debit Cards after hours, call 1-833-773-8204.

Examine ATMs

Criminals have been known to install hardware that “skims” bank cards, stealing private information and access to accounts, among other things. Before you put your debit card into an ATM, check to see that everything appears to be in working condition:

  • Pay attention to what the card readers and keypads look like at the ATMs you frequently use. Check them over for anything that looks out of the ordinary such as unusual scratches or gouges, wires, tape residue on or near the card reader, or odd-looking equipment attached to the ATM.
  • Check for obvious signs of tampering. Common points of tampering include the top of the ATM, speakers, side of the screen, card reader, and keypad.
  • When using ATMs or PIN devices, you should always shield your PIN by placing your hand over the keypad as you enter your PIN.
  • Criminals also use card skimming devices designed to jam your card inside an ATM, and then disguise themselves as a helpful stranger who watches as you input your PIN a few times, while the card remains stuck. After you leave, the thief will remove your card and have your PIN. Be sure to carefully observe ATMs for fraudulent devices and be aware of your surroundings when conducting transactions.

Do not use an ATM if the card reader appears to be loose or fits poorly. If you see something suspicious that you think may be an ATM skimmer, alert the business where the ATM is located. If it’s after business hours, call the local authorities.

Unfortunately, ATM skimming is a problem around the world. Hills Bank continues to monitor both local and international fraud trends to make sure we are aware of the latest scamming techniques and update our technologies to combat the changing tactics of criminals. And as always, monitor and review your account information and report any suspicious or fraudulent transactions immediately by calling us at 1-800-445-5725 (1-800-HILLSBK).

Shop Safely Online

When shopping online, be sure your computer and mobile devices are current with the latest software updates. Any time your browser or operating system can be updated, you should do so to help minimize vulnerabilities on your device.

You can also help protect your personal information by checking the site’s security settings and privacy policy. If the site is secure, its address should start with https://. Depending on your browser, you might also see a lock icon next to the URL indicating the site’s security. Do not purchase anything online that doesn’t come from an https:// website.

Additionally, consider using a legitimate online payment service rather than entering your information into the site itself. That way, the seller or website doesn’t obtain your credit or debit card number. And as a general rule: online merchants have no need for your social security number, except under very specific circumstances involving credit or background checks. If a site asks for your SSN for a basic transaction, that should raise a red flag.

Be Cautious of Emails

This is a popular time for fraudsters and scammers sending malicious emails with fake great offers. You should be wary of clicking on links to offers that seem “too good to be true” or opening email attachments: some can contain malicious software designed to steal your personal information. Remember not to respond to emails asking for your credit card, debit card, bank account numbers, or other personal information. If you are asked to update information, navigate to the official company website to update your information or call their customer service to check the legitimacy of the email. When it doubt, throw it out.

Text Scams

A text message scam is similar to an email scam, but it targets your mobile phone instead of your computer. Common text message scams promise free gifts or products in order to gain access to your personal information. Also, beware of fraudsters sending text messages claiming your credit/debit card has been stopped or your bank account information needs to be updated. They attempt to lure you in to providing personal bank information. If you receive a message like this, always contact your bank or credit card provider first and do not respond to the texts.

Gift Card Scams

There are several different types of gift card scams out there which give headaches to retailers and customers alike. Gift card scams happen most frequently via online auction sites or classified ad sites. If you’re buying gift cards, it’s best to get them directly from the retailer. Many people use gift cards to pay for transactions, especially around the holiday season. But if a merchant asks or requires you to pay with a gift card, that should be a red flag. While shopping throughout the holiday season, keep in mind that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For more information on privacy, identity, and online security, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.