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Don't let fraud crash your party this holiday season.

The holiday season is a busy time of year filled with guests, gifts and all manner of cheerful gatherings. It's also an active time for fraudsters who would love a seat at your holiday table. Don't let fraud be the uninvited guest that ruins your celebration. Protect yourself through the season - and well after the twinkle lights go back into storage - using these tips:

  • Beware of phishing attempts: Scammers know people tend to overspend this time of year and they won't hesitate to exploit that. If you receive a call, e-mail or text message asking you to provide account or personal information to "unfreeze your account," for instance, it should send up a red flag. Your financial institution will never call you to ask for that information. If you're not sure whether it's a valid call or a scam, hang up and call the number on the back of your debit or credit card to verify.
     
  • Watch your account activity: Use online and mobile banking to keep tabs on your transactions as they post, so you can react more quickly if you see one you don't recognize. Log in frequently to review your transactions list - or better yet, sign up in your online banking service to receive balance and account alerts. Report anything suspicious immediately to your financial institution. Capital City Bank online banking clients can take immediate action and cancel their debit card within their online banking service. This puts a full stop on future unauthorized transactions while they work with their banker to resolve any issues.   
     
  • Password protect your mobile device and computer. Itís the simplest and one of the most important steps to take to secure your mobile device and computer. If you need to create an account with the merchant, be sure to use a strong password. Use at least eight characters, with numbers, special characters, and upper and lower case letters. Adhere to the tenet "a unique password for every unique site." 
     
  • When traveling, call your financial institutions to let them know where you're going and when. A battery of processes is in place to secure your accounts against fraud and enable quick action in the event of suspicious activity. For example, spending patterns such as location and amount allow financial institutions to take proactive action in your defense. In the event a transaction seems out of the ordinary, they may freeze your account for your protection until they can reach you to verify the purchases. Great that they're looking out, but potentially frustrating if you're standing at the gas pump or paying the dinner bill at that moment. Avoid the inconvenience altogether by reporting your trip in advance.
  • When shopping online, be discriminating about the online merchants you patronize. Choose reputable companies you recognize and look for the "https" when you're checking out. Avoid public Wi-Fis where possible and only complete online purchases on a secure, password-protected network.
  • Use the Visa Checkout® service when you do make online purchases. This service offered by Capital City Bank allows you to use your debit card to pay online without having to enter your card details at the merchantís site. Enroll your card in the service quickly and easily at the Visa Checkout® site, and all youíll ever have to provide at purchase is your Visa Checkout® username and password, so your card information is never exposed. Itís a quicker, easier and more secure way to make online purchases.
     
  • Avoid clicking on hyperlinks embedded in e-mails. The Better Business Bureau warns that legitimate businesses donít send e-mails asking for follow-up financial information. If an e-mail, even one that claims to be from a familiar retailer, asks you to visit an outside site, donít do itĖit could be redirecting you to a scam site. Instead of clicking on a hyperlink, type the Web address you want to visit into your browser manually.
     
  • Beware of e-mailed appeals for charitable donations. Itís wonderful to be generous, especially this time of year, but you want to be sure your donation goes to a real charity and not a scammer. Beware of any e-mail pitches even if they appear to come from legitimate charities. Many are legit, but some could be the work of opportunistic scammers who want to capitalize on the "season of giving." If they do seem legitimate and you're inclined to give, don't click on a link, but go directly to that charity's website to make your donation.
     
  • Avoid strangers on social media. While this rule applies the rest of the year, too, itís especially important around the holidays when many retailers use social media to drum up business. Fraudsters also send malicious messages through social networks. BitDefender recommends treating messages from strangers as spamĖjust ignore them.
     
  • Do not respond to pop-ups. When a window pops up promising you cash or gift cards for answering a question or taking a survey, close it by pressing Control + F4 for Windows and Command + W for Macs.

Capital City Bank is your ally in the battle against fraud. You can rest assured a combination of safeguards is constantly at work on your behalf, maintaining a secure online banking environment. But many scammers will try to target consumers directly, so vigilance is your best protection. Stop fraud before it can put a crimp in your holiday plans by following these guidelines for safeguarding your accounts and personal information.
 

Note: These tips are provided to help you minimize your vulnerability to common scams. Capital City Bank has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of this information but is not responsible for breaches resulting from circumstances outside the control of the Bank. These precautions are not a guarantee against compromise but are widely believed to reduce your risk of falling victim.