Criminals anxious to steal your financial information love a good crowd.
With many cities and towns in full Mardi Gras mode, parades and other big events can be virtual jackpots for would-be thieves. They may look like the rest of the revelers, but these savvy crooks can make off with cash and valuables, steal credit and debit cards and numbers and compromise accounts within seconds—costing bundles in time, money and frustration.
Some simple tips may help lower the risk of getting run over financially while the good times are rolling:
Downsize wallets and purses. Before your crew or krewe heads out, switch to a thin-profile wallet with only essentials such as a photo i.d., limited cash and a debit or credit card with fraud alert benefits.
Slip your slim-line wallet in a front pocket rather than a back pocket. Wallets in back pockets are easy to see, easier to reach and effortless to skim for card information. If you usually carry a large purse, opt for a small wallet or strapped pouch that holds just what you need and fits snugly out of sight.
Tap an app. Consider buying most of your food, drinks and souvenirs with Apple Pay® to limit opportunities for criminals to capture your credit or debit card information. In packed, busy places, criminals thrive on distractions. If you pay with cash, use smaller bills and count your change. Watch card transactions closely, protect your PIN, get back and put up your card quickly and keep receipts. Be extra vigilant at ATMs, covering PINs and the cash you withdraw.
Booking transportation with mobile apps can be an alternative for getting where you’re going without flashing cash or cards. Always follow those services’ safety guidelines.
Watch accounts. During and after carnival season, use mobile and online banking to check accounts often. Sign up for services such as Visa® Purchase Alerts, a handy fraud detection tool that notifies you by email or text about card activity—usually within seconds of transaction authorization—based on unique thresholds you set.
Cyber-theft can happen months after criminals steal information. Watch your accounts and card statements regularly for unfamiliar charges. If you spot suspicious account activity, call your bank’s or creditor’s fraud line immediately. Monitor your credit reports, too.
Be aware at ATMs. Stay extra vigilant at ATMs, covering your card, PIN and cash. Only use ATMs in open, safe, well-lit locations where you feel comfortable. If something or someone doesn’t seem right at the ATM, leave quickly and let a law enforcement officer know.
Protect valuables. If you’re driving to an event, map out a safe place to park before you go. Leave tablets, laptops and electronic games at home (not in the car). Lock the car and keep smartphones securely with you. Today’s devices hold a lot of personal data and can be very pricey to replace.
With the glitz of Mardi Gras, it’s tempting to wear our best bling. To evade sticky fingers or worse, try nice but less expensive pieces rather than flashy, costly or irreplaceable fine jewelry.
Taking common-sense precautions can help protect you and your money during Mardi Gras, reducing the chance criminals might cash in at your expense. We hope you have a safe, happy Mardi Gras filled with beads, doubloons, bands and all the time-honored purple-green-and-gold traditions our communities treasure about this time of year.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
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