Protecting Your Identity During the Holiday Season
For many, finding a perfect gift for a loved one is part of the holiday season. But as everyone gets excited about holiday shopping, it’s easy to forget that there are people out there waiting to take advantage of what should be a joyful season.
More than 14 million people were victims of identity fraud in 208, according to Javelin’s 2019 Identity Fraud Study. But identity theft does not have to ruin your holiday season. In fact, taking some basic precautions can help protect your personal and financial information. Remember these holiday shopping safety tips to help keep your holidays festive.
What to Do Before Shopping
Stick with trusted sites and secure Internet connections. Online shopping offers many benefits, like allowing you to do all your shopping from one spot and compare prices instantly. However, these conveniences may come with an increased risk of identity theft. To help minimize this risk, buy only from secure websites. To check if it a site is secure, look for a URL that starts with “https://”, says the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Awareness System. Depending on which browser you are using, you may also see a closed padlock icon in the status bar near the site’s URL to indicate that it is a secure website. This safeguards your privacy by helping ensure only you and the online retailer have access to the data being transferred.
Likewise, never conduct financial transactions over a public Wi-Fi connection. It may be more convenient for you to shop online or pay your bills as you’re sipping on your coffee at the local coffee shop, but it’s not worth the security risk. Passwords, credit card numbers and other forms of financial information are not secure on public networks, so save your financial transactions for a secured home connection.
Use cash or credit, not debit. By paying for your purchases with cash or your credit card, you are limiting the chances of identity theft, says Experian. If you are going to charge a purchase, Experian states that credit cards typically offer more protection than debit cards. You’d likely have a better chance of disputing fraudulent charges on a credit card, and it also limits your responsibility for the erroneous charges to $50 under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
Monitor your accounts and transactions. One of the reasons criminals target people during the holiday season is because shoppers are so busy spending money that they’re less likely to notice fraudulent purchases. To help prevent this, go through your account balances and new transactions regularly and mentally check off each purchase you (or your joint account holder) made. Doing this will help you to quickly catch and stop any fraudulent activity that may occur, according to Equifax.
What to Do After Shopping
Shred your bills and receipts. Many people opt to do all of their shopping and banking online nowadays. However, if you have any physical credit card bills, ATM receipts, receipts for items you’ve purchased or any other documents that include your signature, account number, Social Security number or other personal information, the FTC recommends shredding them.
Identity theft doesn’t have to ruin your holiday season. By being proactive, using common sense and following these simple guidelines, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that you’ve taken steps to help keep your identity safe.
Originally posted on November 14, 2013.