It’s that time of the year and holiday cheer is all around us and winter is in the air. While we all spend the season with family and friends the, thought of financial and personal safety have taken a backseat on what’s important. We seem to have a sort of blindness to things that can be bad and detrimental to us all.
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America and around the world and if you think you’re safe from these crimes think again. Even large companies with intricate security networks are vulnerable, remember Target? Your identity has several vulnerability points that can be penetrated, medical records, DMV records, credit and social security as well.
With the rising threat of criminal activity on the rise here are 3 tips on how you can avoid identity theft while on holiday:
1. Practice Safe Online Shopping
Remember to never give out your personal information to an unsolicited email, only shop at trusted and known online stores that you trust. It can be tempting to shop at a new online store to get the holiday bargains. However, if you are not familiar with an online store and you cannot find reliable sources that have done business with this online retailer, then you are better off looking elsewhere. Make sure that the checkout area is secure by locating the closed and locked padlock on your web browser’s window frame. This will help to ensure that your identity is safe from identity thieves due to the encrypted security of the page.
Do not shop on a public computer or public wireless network. You cannot verify the security of a public computer or Wi-Fi network. Some may be infected with spyware that records each keystroke entered. So, even if you are using your own laptop on an unsecured public network, you could be giving ID thieves your credit card information.
2. Safeguard Your Credit Card & Debit Card Information
This holiday season, whenever you can, shop with cash to reduce the chances of identity theft. If you need to shop with a credit/debit card, only use ATMs you trust. Many identity thieves install card skimmers on ATMs in high-traffic areas to swipe your debit card information. Skimmers are virtually undetectable to the naked eye, so you won’t know you’re a victim of identity theft until you see the fraudulent charges on your statement-and by then it may be too late to recover the charges.
Remember that debit cards need daily monitoring. Ideally, you want to use ATMs in bank lobbies or other secure locations with video surveillance. Also, any time you use your ATM card (either to withdrawal cash or to make a purchase) shield your PIN number and card number from others.
3. Be Aware of Pick Pockets
Pick pockets are out in full force during the holiday shopping season. Gentlemen, put your wallet in your front pocket and ladies, carry a small purse close to your body (or avoid bringing one altogether). Keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times. A stealthy thief only needs a second to brush up against you and disappear into the crowd with your credit cards and IDs. Do not let your guard down: Identity thieves come in all shapes and sizes. Just because someone doesn’t fit your idea of what an ID thief may look like, don’t assume your information is safe.
Don’t become another identity theft victim this holiday shopping season. Be alert and be smart. Take a few extra precautions, shop safely, and enjoy the holiday season!