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CSU offers commonsense ways to avoid holiday fraud

Tis the season!

Whew, we have made it past Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but there are still 20 shopping days left. It is also a busy time for theft! In 2013, consumers paid $1.6 billion in fraud complaints for 614 breaches. As of Thanksgiving, 2014 we were already at 589 breaches (some small and some significant).

According to Consumer Sentinel Network, a data base of consumer fraud complaints, 71 percent of fraud activity affected people between the ages of 20-60 and 27 percent affected those over 60. It is relevant that 40 percent of the fraud activity was over the phone, while 33 percent involved email.

No one is immune, but there are some things to be attentive to during our increased spending - and increased activity by those trying to get your information.

Based on information compiled by the Federal Trade Commission, two of the most secure payment methods are money order and check, which accounts for only 3 to 4 percent of fraud cases, while payment by debit and credit card accounted for 11-12 percent of the fraud complaints. Wire transfer was least secure at 34 percent, while prepaid cards accounted for 28 percent of claims. Wire transfer is essentially wiring cash.

Sensitive information such as personal Social Security card or bank account numbers should never be given out unless you know exactly who is receiving the document and that a secure internet connection is used, rather than an open Wi-Fi line or public computer.

When giving information over a website, be sure it is encrypted on each page. Look for "https" on each page of the site you are on - not just where you sign in. Also look for a key symbol or "s" on http to indicate secure. Treat information such your Social Security number, credit card numbers, and birth date very carefully.

Have absolutely nothing in your wallet or purse that contains a Social Security number, such as a social security card or Medicare or insurance cards that use Social Security number as ID. Limit the number of credit cards in your wallet to no more than two or three maximum. Gift cards can be used by anyone if they are lost or stolen.

In addition to keeping good tabs on your wallet and being sure packages in your vehicle are out of sight, here are a few items to help you protect your ID and funds:

. When shopping online, avoid using open wireless (such as from cell phone) or unencrypted site such as coffee shops, etc.

. Be sure you have updated your anti-virus program to current protection.

.One of the safest ways to pay is by credit card. With most credit cards, you're protected if the card is later used fraudulently. Check your credit card receipts and statements regularly! You are also protected with a debit card, but there is a longer delay in getting the funds returned to your account. I use a debit card that is solely for online use that has limited funds deposited.

.Be sure the site is secure and check the URLs to be sure that it is still "https" when it is time to enter payment information. Do not leave your credit card details on their website.

This is a time to enjoy friends, family, and your values. I hope you enjoy each of your traditions!