Happy Holidays Leads To Happy Thieves

It’s that time of year.  Cyber Monday.  Lights a glow.  Registers ringing.  Your credit comprised.  Wait, what?  Yes, thieves like to do their holiday shopping also with your identity.  Norton’s Cybercrime index reached a high the week after Thanksgiving with spam dominating 56 percent of email.  Norton reports that around 90 percent of identity theft begins from hacking, which typically starts as a phishing email and website links that appear to come from legit retailers.

Be aware of your risks at all time.  No one wants merry holidays to be ruined with identity theft.

Why Do Thieves Target The Holidays?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft cost Americans $1.52 billion in 2011, with complaints increasing from 1.4 million to 1.8 million year-over-year.  Many consumers relax their tracking of financial information due to being busy, which increases chances of identity theft.

Holidays are an extremely popular time for identity theft.  Why is that? Here are a few reasons:

  • More temporary workers. Chains will add nearly 300,000 workers during the holiday season.  Why is this bad when it is good for the economy?  Not all temporary agencies perform background checks.
  • Increased use of credit cards. Every time you use your credit card there is a chance for identity theft. Pay attention in the checkout line.  Your card could be copied by a handheld skimmer or by a picture taken on a cell phone.  Some thieves will even swipe out your card for a similar looking card, so be on the lookout.
  • Opening a store card for additional discounts. With the holidays a lot of times comes higher priced purchases, so consumers are looking for ways to save money including opening a store account to save a percentage.  This puts you at risk for identity theft since you are filling out personal information at the store and handing over to get approved.
  • Bargain shopping. Another way people try to save money is to bargain shop.  This may lead to purchasing from websites user is not as familiar with or hasn’t checked the background.  Just because they have trust seals does not mean they are legit.
  • Increased online shopping. It is best to use a credit card over a debit card when shopping online, as there is more protection if something goes wrong. You can easily dispute charges on your credit card and withhold payment until the matter is resolved.  With a debit card, you have already paid for your purchase and can take awhile to get your money back.
  • More crowded stores. With larger crowds, it is easier for people to actually physically steal from you by way of pickpocket.  Be sure to keep a tight watch on your purse or wallet.
  • With increased traveling, many shoppers finish up shopping or other personal matters on the unsecured Wi-Fi network at the airport.  Thieves can “sidejack” your information through cookies captured over the public connection.
  • Increased use of smartphone. Using your phone on unsecured networks can present the same problem as above.  With all the financial apps available, thieves can steal a variety of information on your phone.  Be sure not to leave your phone either.

How To Prevent Or Catch Identity Theft

Here are a few tips to consider for a safe holiday shopping season:

  • First thing is first, always be aware of your balances. Thieves can add up balances on your account quickly.  To prevent this, the Identity Theft Resource Center recommends completing your online shopping with a special, dedicated credit card rather than using your regular credit card or a debit card.
  • Be on the lookout for email scams. There is not a company out there that will ask you for personal information over email.
  • Be sure to monitor your accounts. Identity theft can also cause problems to your credit because of late payments. The end of the year is a good time to check your credit reports through http://www.annualcreditreport.com or subscribe to a credit monitoring service.
  • Be careful what you share. Don’t post personal information such as your address, birth date or other personal information on social media.  Also, be cautious when sharing you will be out of town.
  • Be a wise online shopper. Research a new company before purchasing from their site.
  • Keep your computer safe. Use security software and use smart passwords. Always use a password to protect your wireless connection.
  • Shred important documents. Make sure to take proper care of documents with your personal information.
  • Get off marketing lists for pre-approved credit.Crooks may steal these offers from your mail and use them to obtain credit in your name. You can opt-out of receiving pre-approved credit offers for no charge by going to optoutprescreen.com.
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