Stay secure, spend within means this holiday season

By Eric Tegethoff
Washington News Service

SEATTLE — Don’t let the holiday cheer turn into misery.

Experts say folks should follow some safety tips to make sure their information stays secure.

Already, American shoppers are out in record numbers, and they’re surfing the web for gifts more than ever.

Michael Murdoch, a communications specialist with Wauna Federal Credit Union, which has branches in Washington state, says people need to be careful when making purchases online.

He advises people to use secure websites that begin with HTTPS and refrain from buying gifts while connected to public wi-fi.

Most importantly, Murdoch says weak passwords are one of the easiest ways for fraudsters to get hold of personal information.

“One thing that everybody can do is to use complicated passwords,” he states. “We can’t stress that enough — to change them and use complicated ones.

“So, at least eight characters, including numbers, special characters and, of course, upper and lower cases.”

In stores, Murdoch encourages people to shield their PIN numbers when entering them. He says people also should monitor their accounts online.

Credit unions such as Murdoch’s and most other financial institutions offer phone apps for tracking accounts.

Murdoch says people also should track how much they’re spending this season. Making a list and keeping a budget can help.

“It’s always a good idea to set yourself a budget because — I’m definitely guilty of this — before you know it, you’ve overspent or perhaps you purchase something that you didn’t quite plan to purchase for,” he states.

Murdoch says people should keep to their budgets through the holidays, including the day after Christmas, which is a big shopping day.

He adds that websites such as or Google shopping are good places to compare prices online and find the best deals.


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