With the holiday shopping season officially underway, holiday shoppers should be aware that identity theft spikes during this time of year. Take a look at the Holiday Shopping Guide on the right to learn more.
An Accenture study found that 47% of shoppers will make their holiday purchases using their PCs or laptops and 18-19% will research gift ideas and make purchases through their smartphones and tablets. With traditional in-store holiday shopping taking a backseat to the quick and nimble convenience of mobile and at-home shopping, fraudsters have more opportunities to take advantage of those making online financial transactions.
"Identity thieves love this time of year," said Steve Schwartz, President of Identity Guard. "Holiday shoppers are oftentimes too focused on researching and buying the perfect gift and don't realize their actions may put them at risk for identity theft. Without taking some precautionary measures, you are giving fraudsters a holiday gift of their own - your personal and financial information.
By becoming familiar with the risks and knowing what you can do to help protect your identity, you can safeguard your personal and financial information during the craze of the holiday shopping season; whether you are shopping online or in a store.
- Beware of phishing scams and protect your computer from online threats. Never open an email from an unknown sender and avoid downloading file attachments and clicking on embedded links in unfamiliar email messages. Be sure your anti-virus and anti-malware software is up-to-date and that you have the latest spam filtering software.
- Keep a watchful eye on your deliveries. Packages containing personal information, account numbers, receipts, or even personal checks can lead to identity theft if they fall into the wrong hands. Take advantage of the "signature required" delivery option offered by most delivery companies or consider having your packages delivered to your office if possible.
- Practice safe shopping online. When shopping online, verify the website is safe by checking for the "s" in the website address (https) and look for the closed padlock symbol in the bottom of the screen which indicates a secure connection.
- Never conduct financial or shopping transactions over public Wi-Fi. Most Wi-Fi networks are not secure and sensitive information - such as credit card numbers - can be intercepted during transmission if unencrypted. You should never access your banking information through public Wi-Fi if using a WEB browser. Instead, use your carrier's cellular service or your native financial institution's banking applications.
- Leave unnecessary items at home. Stores are generally more crowded during this time of year making it easy for pickpockets. Ladies should use a small clutch that can be worn on the wrist and men should keep their wallets in their front pockets. Limit the number of credit cards you take with you.
- Password protect your devices to prevent access. Any device, whether it's a smartphone or tablet, should be set with a hard-to-guess password, PIN, or other proven screen locking solution that would prevent unwanted thieves from gaining access to your personal information. Never use your birthdate or the last four digits of your Social Security number as a PIN or password.