Safety Strategies for Holiday Shopping

Christmas Shopping

Safety Strategies for Holiday Shopping

Fraudulent $334.00 Charge

In December of 2016, we were stationed in Okinawa, Japan. My husband and I had been saving receipts to check against our checking account for five years. It was one of the safety strategies for holiday shopping we learned through experience. The holiday season was in full swing, and Richard was looking at that week’s receipts with our banking app open on his phone. He asked me, “What did you spend $334.00 on at the Exchange?”

“I haven’t shopped at the Exchange since October,” I replied.

That is how we discovered that a fraudulent charge had been put on my debit card, and when we notified the bank we were shocked at how the representative reacted. “This happens all the time,” we were told. We quickly learned that due to higher than normal shopping activity during the holiday season customers are less likely to catch fraudulent charges to their debit or credit cards. There are several signs to look out for unauthorized use of your financial information, and the Arbor Financial Credit Union has a straight forward article about that very topic. Here are my safety strategies for holiday shopping. 

Have a Holiday Shopping Plan

In Okinawa, Japan we needed to have our holiday packages shipped by the beginning of November to guarantee delivery by Christmas and avoid paying extra for shipping. Our family would receive their gifts before Thanksgiving. I discovered that since the gift buying was done early I was able to spend time on other holiday actives.  We used sinking funds to make our holiday budget. If you want to learn more about holiday sinking funds you can read my post on the topic. When the holiday shopping was done, we didn’t go to the department store. That’s why we knew a receipt wasn’t lost when we saw the unfamiliar charge.

Financial Phishing Scams

I answered a call from an unfamiliar number in July 2020. The area code was San Antonio, TX, and I knew that our bank was based there.  The caller identified himself as a representative from the bank, and informed me that there were fraudulent charges on my debit card.  I was asked if I had made purchases in Texas or online through Etsy within the last 48 hours.  I had not, so he then asked for my log in information. My husband was deployed at the time, and we had just updated all of those passwords.  I honestly didn’t know that information and wasn’t at home.  I was on the phone with him for 20 minutes. The caller told me our call was being transferred to another department.  Then the call was dropped.

By this point, I was home. After looking on my banking app I didn’t see any of the charges the caller had told me about on our account.  I called the bank through the app, and told the representative that my earlier call was disconnected.  It turns out, the bank had not notified me about fraudulent activity. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut. Fortunately, the real representative from the bank was compassionate. “Mam, you did the right thing. You played dumb,” she told me calmly. 

“I feel so dumb! I would have told him all of that information if I had remembered it,” I confessed. 

If your bank account has been legitimately hacked, a bank will never call you.  You will receive notifications, but now it’s encouraged to look up the bank’s contact information though alternative methods, such as a laptop. Here’s article from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about additional steps you should take if you think your accounts have been compromised.  

Know Where Your Money Is

By tracking your finances, you will be more confident to direct money towards the your goals.  You can also protect yourself when an unknown charge appears on your account. The holiday season is a busy time of year, and by following your unique shopping plan you will be empowered to stop buying items when you reach your goals.  Regardless of how much money you have, you need to know where your money is. For more information on personal budgeting follow me on Instagram and Facebook @salchowcoaching. You can also schedule a free consultation on my website,

1 Comment
  • Stacey Newman Weldon
    Posted at 23:05h, 28 October Reply

    Such great advice to stay in touch with your bank account on a regular basis. Especially during the holidays. Or even when you’re out on adventures. I had my credit info swiped at one of my son’s birthday parties held at a bowling alley! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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