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Bank group offers holiday financial safety tips for shoppers

With the holiday season upon us, the Minnesota Bankers Association (MBA) is reminding the public to take extra precautions while shopping.

Through the "Tis the Season to Be Careful" public awareness campaign, the MBA is distributing a list of tips to help keep consumers and their finances safe. By following these safety tips and working with their local banker, consumers can increase their chances of having a happy and safe holiday season.

Bankers strive to protect their customers' investments. By using these safety tips, consumers can play a role in guarding themselves against scams, theft and fraud. This year's tips focus on safeguarding against scams and identity theft and serve as a reminder for consumers to monitor their holiday spending.

"Now is the time to be particularly alert," said Joe Witt, president/CEO of the MBA. "With the increased activity during the holiday season, we are encouraging customers to shop wisely and take extra safety measures to ensure they are not victims of identity theft, fraud or other types of crimes."

The Minnesota Bankers Association is the state's largest trade association devoted exclusively to the representation of commercial banks. The MBA was founded in 1889 and represents 95 percent of Minnesota's chartered banks. For more information, visit their Web site at

Shop wisely:

•The holiday season often brings extra expenses. Don't forget to budget for gifts, charities, decorations, food, travel and entertainment.

•Don't let holiday expenses sneak up on you. Set up a plan to save money throughout the year so you have less to worry about in December.

•Consider giving gift cards. This can save you time as well as money on gas and wrapping paper.

•Set limits for gift giving. Your friends and family may also be concerned about money during the holidays. Ease everyone's minds by agreeing upon certain price limits for presents.

At home:

•The holidays are an excellent time to update or create an inventory of items in your home. Take photos, make videos and write down serial numbers of valuables. Consider storing important information in a safe deposit box.

•Keep a list of all credit cards, account numbers, expiration dates and customer service telephone numbers in a secure place away from the cards in case they are lost or stolen.

•If you're shopping by catalog, phone or online, confirm an address and phone number that you can use if you have questions or problems.

•Review your credit card and bank statements carefully and immediately report any unusual activity.

While out and about:

•Keep your hands free and consolidate purchases into one or two shopping bags.

•When making a purchase with a credit card, keep your card in sight at all times. Some criminals are trained to memorize card numbers and names so make sure it isn't easily viewed by others.

•Make sure you use ATMs that are in well-lit and highly visible areas. If you have to go after dark, take someone with you.

•Before leaving a store, get out your car keys. When you get to your car, carefully look around and go back inside the store if you notice any suspicious activity.

•Parking near entrances and exits is ideal, though almost impossible during the holiday season. The next best area is well-lit and next to a well-traveled roadway.

•If you have to leave purchases in your car, store them in your trunk. It also is a good idea to save large purchases for last so you can head straight home.