Identity Theft Prevention During the Holidays
We are now well into the holiday shopping season, and consumers will be flooding malls and retail stores in the final days looking for last-minute Christmas gifts. During this shopping frenzy, identity thieves are out there looking to capitalize on this “window of opportunity” to take advantage of busy shoppers.
There are several conditions that increase the dangers of ID theft during this time of year. The most obvious being that consumers are spending much more money than during the other 11 months. The American Research Group estimates that the average individual will spend roughly $1,000 on Christmas this year. That translates into over $1 trillion being spent in just 6-8 weeks.
Another potential issue during the holidays is the surge of temporary and seasonal employees in retail stores. Because shops need to hire so many employees this time of year, they tend to have more relaxed vetting standards, making it easier for identity thieves to rob consumers from the inside. Finally, consumers are more willing to veer from normal shopping patterns during the holidays and shop at unfamiliar (and often insecure) websites to find the gifts they are looking for.
Though we are busy, we must remain vigilant to prevent our identities from being stolen during the remainder of the holiday season. Here are five steps to take to ensure your identity remains secure:
Keep your Home Secure
We do not want to believe that someone we know would steal our identity, but statistics show that a large number of identity theft victims know the perpetrator. If you are hosting holiday parties and/or having family or friends in from out of town, be sure to keep your checkbook, bank cards, and other financial data out of reach. It is best to have all these items locked up in a safe where no one can get at them.
Designate One Credit Card for Holiday Purchases
One of the best ways to isolate the threat of identity theft is to use only one bank card for all your purchases. And make sure this is a credit card. Do NOT use checks or debit cards which immediately withdraw money from your bank account. This can cause other problems, such as overdrafts, and create a mess that will be even more difficult to untangle. If at all possible, stick to one card, and watch the card statements carefully to ensure that all transactions are legitimate.
Leave your Purse and Most Bank Cards at Home
When you go out to the mall, there may be thieves looking to steal your purse. If you set it down to eat or just to pick up an item you bought, it could be gone in a split second. The best plan is to leave your purse at home and put your driver’s license and designated bank card in a wallet that you keep in your front pocket. It is much harder to steal a wallet or electronically scan the data from the cards in the wallet if it is kept in the front pocket.
Change your Electronic Passwords
It is a good idea to update your passwords every few months or so, and this should definitely be done during the holidays. Also, do not fall into the temptation to use the same password for every account. With all the high-profile data breaches we hear about, it is impossible to assume that the passwords you use for online accounts are secure. If you have trouble remembering all your passwords, consider using a password manager such as Roboform or Dashlane.
Give Yourself the Gift of ID Theft Protection
As vigilant as we are, it is impossible to feel 100% secure in today’s digitally-driven world. Millions of Americans have had their identities stolen, and with government agencies and major corporations being hacked on a regular basis, no one is immune to this threat. Take all reasonable measures, then add identity theft protection from a service like Legal Shield in the event of a worst-case scenario.
The holidays are a joyful time of the year, but they are also very hectic, and shoppers are highly vulnerable to having their identities stolen. Take steps to ensure your identity is safe, so you can rest easy and truly enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.