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Top 10 financial safety tips for the holidays

The holidays are meant to be times for relaxation and family. The last thing people want is to stress about fraud and ruin holiday cheer because of a lost or stolen credit card. Here are few tips to help prevent and protect people from becoming a victim this winter.

Most fraudulent use of cards takes place within a few days of their being lost or stolen. Immediately report lost or stolen cards to the issuing bank or financial institution.

Protect cards as if they are cash. Do not leave them unattended anywhere, such as in a car, bar, night club or restaurant. If traveling during the holidays, cards should be with the owner at all possible times. Otherwise, they should be put in a secure location, such as a hotel safe.

When shopping online, be mindful of the websites where purchases are made and what information is provided. Always purchase from websites that start with https – this means it is a secure site. Also, be mindful when using public WiFi networks. Internet connections that require a password are the safest.

Never write down a PIN - memorize it. Also, designate unique PINs for each card, and use random number, letter and symbol combinations when possible. Do not use codes, such as a birth date, that can be found easily in a wallet.

Don't leave credit cards in a car's glove compartment. An alarmingly high proportion of all credit card thefts are from this area.

Always check returned cards when at a store or restaurant. It's easy to forget cards, and it's easy for servers or sales people to return the wrong card when they're in a hurry.

Don't carelessly discard or leave documents that contain personal information in the open - including account numbers - such as car rental agreements or airline ticket coupons.

Do not give account numbers over the phone unless initiating the call.

Always take receipts and destroy any extra copies.

If traveling overseas, let the card provider know about plans to travel to a foreign country. Oftentimes, there may be restrictions on using cards in some countries and a provider will be less likely to question the foreign transactions if prior notice is given.

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George Schmelzel

George Schmelzel is senior vice president of Card Services and Payment Solutions at UMB Bank and can be reached at George.Schmelzel@umb.com.

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