It’s time to start thinking about all of that holiday shopping we have to do. More importantly, it’s time to give serious though to the increased risk of identity theft that so many holiday shoppers face in the coming months. The most wonderful time of year is no time to become a victim.
It’s the season of giving but don’t give away your identity
No matter when you make a purchase, there is always a risk that a thief may acquire some information—such as a credit card number—that will allow them to set up financial accounts under your name and rack up a serious amount of debt. But the threat is particularly high during the holiday season. Not only are consumers making more purchases at both brick-and-mortar stores and online, but they are also more distracted while doing so. As you focus on buying for everyone on your list, you may not be spending as much time thinking about your financial security.
This was confirmed last month by a Bankrate survey of 1,000 Americans. Though most of the respondents said that they were afraid of identity theft and aware of the risks they face every day, a significant number added that they still engage in risky behavior that invites this possibility. These behaviors include forgetting to regularly check their credit reports, failing to shred important financial documents and using public wi-fi networks to make purchases and check bank balances.
It’s important to stay focused. Even when you’re busy doing your holiday shopping, remember the following tips:
- Beware new retail card applications. Around this time of year especially, retailers will often offer special store cards that come with rewards and discounts. It may be tempting to sign up, but be warned: You may have to fill out a paper application with your personal information, even your Social Security Number. It’s not unheard of for retail employees to steal identities, and it would be easy for one of them to take a quick picture of your application without your knowledge. Skip the reward cards this year, or apply online if you really want to take advantage of the savings.
- Keep an eye out for skimmers. Sometimes, you need to get some quick cash from an ATM. Just make sure there aren’t any devices attached to the card reader that look like skimmers. Thieves can use these to copy your card information and make unauthorized purchases. When in doubt, stick with bank branches that you trust.
- Check your account statements more frequently. You should be monitoring your account statements anyway, but it’s particularly important during the holiday season. You’ll be doing a lot of shopping, and there are plenty of opportunities for fraudulent purchases to slip in without your notice. Pay attention, and report any discrepancies to your card issuer.
Finally, be sure to invest in a credit monitoring service, which can notify you of certain activities that may indicate fraud. This can give you much-needed peace of mind, allowing you to rest assured that you’re taking important measures to safeguard your identity.