The holiday season is upon us! It’s a season of joy filled special events, gatherings with loved ones, giving of gifts and fun celebrations.
With all of the hustle and bustle, it’s also a season when a nasty thief can steal your identity – and that’s a holiday “gift” even less appealing than a lump of coal.
Here are simple steps you can take to help prevent identity theft during this holiday season.
Protect Your Plastic When You Are Out and About
Whether you are shopping, dining out or enjoying a choral concert, busy public places are attractive to identity thieves, especially when you are distracted during the holidays. The Insurance Information Institute* offers these 3 tried and true methods for protecting credit cards and personal information:
- “Keep the amount of personal information in your purse or wallet to the bare minimum. Avoid carrying additional credit cards, your social security card, or passport, unless absolutely necessary.
- Guard your credit card when making purchases. Use your hand as a shield when using automatic teller machines (ATM).
- Always take credit card or ATM receipts. Do not throw receipts into public trash containers, leave them on the counter or put them in your shopping bag where they can easily fall out or get stolen.”
And, that’s not all. Now that credit cards had Radio Frequency ID (RFID) chips, thieves can use scanners to read your credit card information – while standing in line behind you at the checkout counter. Wallets that block RFID scanning can be purchased online and at most major retail stores.
Safe and secure online shopping habits
Ignoring pop-ups and links from unfamiliar sources should be a “no brainer” for most veteran cyber-shoppers. But, during the holidays, ads that offer amazing deals on gift items can be tempting.
Avoid the impulse to click on links to deals and electronic greeting cards from unknown senders. Scammers may be setting you up to install malicious malware on your devices and steal your identity.
In your rush to buy the perfect present for that special someone, you also may forget these other simple steps**:
- Update your devices – laptop, tablet and smartphone – before you start shopping, so that you have all of the most recent security patches installed.
- Don’t forget that transactional websites should have URLs that start with http or https, and an icon in the shape of a padlock in the bottom corner.
- Use a credit card for purchases instead of a debit card. In nearly all cases, your credit card has better fraud protection and easier resolution after a breach or theft.
During and after the holidays make sure to review all banking and credit cards statements to make sure there are no unauthorized activities. (Reporting misuse of your personal information as quickly as possible can help make recovery efforts easier.) Some experts also suggest changing passwords and usernames for online accounts after the holidays are over.
It’s not just a hassle to have an unauthorized charge on your credit card. Identity theft is a serious business.
According to the latest biennial report, Victims of Identity Theft, 2014*** from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), an estimated 17.6 million people were victims of identity theft in 2014. The total cumulative out-of-pocket loss to the victims was $6.5 billion.
Out-of-pocket loss isn’t the only thing to consider. Your good credit can be imperiled, too.
- The BJS report showed that when identity thieves used personal information to open a new account or for other fraudulent purposes, 13 % of victims experienced credit-related problems.
- The BJS-surveyed crime victims reported that they had to correct the same information on a credit report repeatedly, were turned down for credit or loans, or paid a higher interest rate.
For those who are preparing to buy a home in 2016, credit-related problems like these can slow down the process of achieving the dream of homeownership.
Protect yourself against identity theft now. You’ll have a more joyful holiday season and a much happier new year, too.
The information provided in this flyer is for dissemination to real estate and financial business entities only, and is not intended for use as an advertisement for the extension of credit to consumers.
* “Protect Yourself from Identity Theft as Holiday Shopping Season Begins.” Insurance Information Institute. Web. 13 November 2015. http://www.iii.org/press-release/protect-yourself-from-identity-theft-as-the-holiday-shopping-season-begins-112012
** “Simple Steps for Safer Cyber Monday Shopping.” TransUnion, LLC. Web. 13 November 2015. https://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/identity-theft-and-fraud/7-simple-steps-for-safer-cyber-monday-shopping.page
*** “Victims of Identity Theft, 2014.” U.S. Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Web. 13 November 2015. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/vit14.pdf
Nov 20, 2019