Identity Theft

 

There’s extra stress for shoppers this holiday season – protecting your personal information. Identity theft is a year-round crime, but it spikes during the hustle and the bustle of the holidays. And with data breach after data breach, this year it’s especially important to be vigilant.

Financial professional Phillip Allen from Phillip Allen, Inc. is here with some steps we should all take as we do our holiday shopping.

Q: Why is identity theft more prevalent during the holidays?

Simply put, we are distracted during the holidays. Not only are we spending more money, but we tend to be busier, more stressed out and less careful than other times of the year. Identity thieves know this, and they can take advantage of our distraction.

Q: What should shoppers be doing to keep their information safe?

I have 5 steps shoppers should take:

1. Paper or Plastic

The first step to consider is how you’re paying for in-store purchases. Obviously, by using cash, your personal information is safe. But using cash the entire holiday season probably isn’t feasible. Consider using a credit card rather than a debit card, because they offer more protection. Or get a prepaid debit card. That way, if a hacker gets a hold of your information, they don’t have access to all the funds in your main checking account.

2. Shop Secure Sites

Online shopping is growing more and more popular – sales are expected to top $105 billion this year (according to the National Retail Federation). When you are shopping online, you should type the store’s name directly into your web browser. Don’t click on an email or social media post because that could be a scam (according to the BBB). Also, before you enter your credit card number, look at the website’s address. It should start with https. That extra “s” means the site is secure.

3. Keep Your Online Guard Up

When you’re online shopping, don’t give out unnecessary personal information. A recent survey (by Identity Theft 911) found that 21% of online shoppers would provide their mother’s maiden name to make a purchase. 14% would give a family member’s birthday. And 2% said they would give out their Social Security number. Stop and think if you’re asked any of this personal information; you shouldn’t have to give it out to simply shop online.

4. Engage Your Eagle Eyes

Most forms of identity theft can be caught just by checking your credit and debit cards frequently. Weekly is good; daily is better. Remember, the pain of identity theft increases if you don’t catch it quickly. You should also check your credit scores and reports once a year, whether you believe you’re the victim of fraud or not. There are three major credit bureaus in the U.S. Each is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once a year.

5. Give Yourself the Gift of Monitoring

If you do believe your personal information has been compromised, you may want to give yourself the gift of credit monitoring. After many of the recent data breaches, the companies involved have offered this for free to their customers. Most recently, KMart offered credit monitoring to shoppers who used a credit or debit card in-store during its breach in September and October. Credit monitoring will alert you when someone opens or attempts to open a new line of credit in your name.

Suggested Graphic:

Holiday Shopping & Identity Theft

1. Paper or Plastic

2. Shop Secure Sites

3. Keep Your Online Guard Up

4. Engage Your Eagle Eyes

5. Give Yourself the Gift of Monitoring

 

Website Download:

Identity theft spikes during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. But there are steps shoppers can take to protect themselves. Financial professional Phillip Allen talked to WLOS-TV about 5 essential steps for shoppers:

 

1. Paper or Plastic

2. Shop Secure Sites

3. Keep Your Online Guard Up

4. Engage Your Eagle Eyes

5. Give Yourself the Gift of Monitoring

 

To get your free credit reports, click here.

To get your free credit score, click here.

 

www.annualcreditreport.com

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