Protect Yourself While Shopping on Black Friday, and Beyond

by Ann Carrns, The New York Times

dave416 / FlickrOver the past year, so many data breaches at retail chains and restaurants have come to light that it’s hard to keep track. So what does that mean for shoppers, as the holiday season gets underway?

Although it’s unnerving to have any sort of card information stolen – whether by hackers or through an old-fashioned pilfered wallet – consumer and security experts say the fallout may be less damaging if shoppers avoid debit cards and use credit cards instead.

“One of our biggest concerns is debit cards, because they’re linked to your checking account,” said Richard K. Avery, president of the Northeast region for Securitas Security Services.

With both credit and debit cards, consumers generally aren’t liable for charges made with stolen card numbers, as long as the problem is reported within 60 days, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But there could be more headaches with debit cards, because banks have 10 business days to investigate and credit funds to your account. In the meantime, you may be short of money for any bills that come due. “That’s a long time to wait,” said Gail Hillebrand, the bureau’s associate director for consumer education and engagement.

And when your physical debit card is lost or stolen or your PIN is compromised, you must notify the bank within two business days in order to limit your liability to $50, the agency says. Otherwise, you could lose up to $500 – or even more, in the case of a lengthy delay in reporting a problem. In any case, it’s best to contact your bank promptly.

Credit cards also provide protection in case you are unhappy with goods or services you purchased. You can dispute the charge and withhold payment while the bank sorts things out with the merchant.

Nevertheless, many people expect to avoid using credit cards for holiday shopping. …

Continue reading on The New York Times website »




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