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4 ways to fend off thieves this holiday season

The holiday shopping season has begun, and with it comes decorations, enticing sales, and unfortunately, theft.

Whether you’re online shopping or waiting for a package to be delivered, here’s how to protect yourself from thieves this holiday season.

Use credit, not debit

Most Americans will do at least some of their shopping online, but if you’re worried about identity theft, use a credit card instead of a debit card. Most credit cards come with protections, so if your card is stolen, you aren’t liable for charges you didn’t authorize. According to the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), you are not liable for unauthorized charges if you report the missing card before it is used. If the card has been used, your liability for unauthorized credit card charges maxes out at $50.

With a debit card, whether you get your money back depends on when you report the fraud. If you report the stolen card before any unauthorized charges are made, you are not responsible for the charges. If you wait two days, you are responsible for as much as $50, but if you wait more than two days, that number jumps up to $500.

In the event that someone steals your debit card number and makes unauthorized purchases, you won’t be liable for those charges if you still have the physical card, and report the transactions within 60 days of seeing your statement.

Long story short, you may eventually get reimbursed for fraudulent debit card transactions, but your money will be tied up until the bank investigates the charges and issues a refund, which could take weeks.

Set up mobile banking alerts

It’s also a good idea to set up mobile spending alerts through your bank. Several banks have this option, but at Chase for instance, you can set notifications for ATM withdrawals, debit card transactions, or credit card charges that exceed $125. That way, you’re aware of and can immediately report any large purchases made without your approval.

Use trusted Wi-Fi

Only shop on trusted wireless networks. Using a free, unauthorized network leaves your passwords, credit card numbers and personal information vulnerable. So only make purchases on a password protected Wi-Fi network you trust.

Protect your packages

After you make a purchase online, you’ll likely have it delivered to your home. This can open you up to theft if packages are left unattended on your porch. Use the following tips to ensure your purchases make it under the tree.

  • Request a signature at delivery

Yes, this means that someone has to be home to receive the package, but it will also ensure that your stuff doesn’t get stolen.

  • Sign up for free delivery programs

If you’re shipping via UPS, enroll in their My Choice program. This free service allows you to pick a two-hour delivery window and receive text or email alerts when your package has been delivered. You can even add directions for where to leave the package, like behind your trash cans, or in a deck box, if you have one.

Can’t leave work to receive a package? FedEx lets customers sign up for Delivery Manager, which allows you to select evening or weekend delivery, very convenient.

  • Redirect your shipment

One of the safest ways to protect deliveries is to login and redirect your shipment to a UPS, FedEx or USPS location. This could be a storefront, access point or offsite locker. It’s super easy, and although you’ll have to go pick up the box and potentially wait in line, it’s much better than getting robbed.

At the end of the day, no one wants to get duped during the holidays. Follow these rules, stay alert, and keep your money and packages safe this holiday season!

Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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