Holiday Identity Theft
Identity theft is a problem that you have to constantly be on the lookout for, but doubly so during the holiday season. Professional criminals look forward to taking advantage of the increased shopping activity as well as the stress, carelessness and general chaos that always comes with it.
To ensure the holidays remain happy for you, here are some common holiday issues to look out for, and some tips to keep you safe.
Watch Out for Suspicious Deals and Shady Sites Online
Thieves know shoppers will be looking to stretch their holiday budgets by finding bargains. “Phishing” sites with fake deals meant to bait you into entering personal information and credit card numbers always pop up in droves around the holiday season. While “deal aggregator” sites, like Google Shopping, make efforts to weed bogus sites out, they don’t catch everything. Some won’t even require you to enter information – if your security settings are lax, they can install malware that logs your keystrokes and combs your hard drive simply by getting you to visit the page. If a site is offering a deal that seems too good to be true, simply Google their domain name to see if anyone else is talking about them. You can also check to see if they are accredited with the Better Business Bureau. If you want to play it totally safe online, however, just stick with the major retailers.
Bogus Holiday E-Cards
People love to send animated holiday greeting cards by email and through social networks because they’re fun and usually free. That free card may come with a serious price, though – malware that quietly installs itself when the card is loaded, and steals your personal information. To avoid this one, just stick to visiting established animated card sites with a strong reputation, like JibJab.
Don’t Shop from The Coffee Shop
Free public WiFi connections usually offer little to no privacy or security. In spite of this, you’ll inevitably see dozens of people doing their shopping from the Starbucks, logging into personal accounts and entering their credit card numbers. Thieves with relatively little technical know-how can hop onto these networks and get a look at all this data. If you’re shopping online you should try to only do it from your home connection, but if you absolutely have to log into something personal while on a public connection, be sure to use the https:// prefix in the URL. This at least encrypts your information as it passes through the air and makes it much more difficult for thieves to access.
Don’t Let Your Card Leave Your Sight
Retail stores and the eateries near them often take on extra temporary staff to handle the holiday rush. Sometimes they get desperate for workers and don’t exactly do the thorough screening job or hold people to the higher standards that they usually do. Criminals take advantage by getting these temporary jobs and doing a little credit card skimming with portable devices that can easily fit in a pocket. Any credit card transaction at a store should be handled at the point of sale without leaving your sight; if a cashier attempts to take your card to a back room or swipe it on a device that’s not connected to the cash register, make a request that all transactions take place in front of you.
These are just a few tips to help you keep your identity safe this holiday season.