While you may be dreaming of a white Christmas, an identity thief may be dreaming of stealing your identity. With higher traffic both in stores and online on retail websites around the holidays, identity theft is known to increase during this time of year. As you prepare to start your holiday shopping, here are a few tips to keep your identity safe:
-When you shop, carry only the cards you plan to use. Keeping some of your cards separate could help minimize the damage if your wallet is stolen.
-Know where your cards are at all times. Shopping in stores around the holidays can be stressful, and it can be easy to lose track of your card when you’re rushing. Make sure your card makes it safely back into your wallet after each transaction, and keep your wallet close.
-Check for evidence of tampering before you use an ATM to obtain cash. Glue and overlays on the card reader are common indicators of tampering. Trust your instincts; if you suspect a machine has been tampered with, consider withdrawing cash somewhere else. Also, remember to protect your PIN from anyone who may try to read it over your shoulder when you’re using an ATM machine or POS terminal.
-Monitor your account activity through online banking and check your monthly statements closely. Your shopping patterns are likely to change around the holidays, which means it’s important to check your statements even more closely than usual to ensure that there are no fraudulent charges. Hold on to your receipts to help you verify your transactions, and contact your financial institution or card provider immediately if you see a charge that you did not make.
-Make sure you’re securely shopping online. If you’re shopping online, make sure your computer has the most up-to-date antivirus software, and that you’re only giving out credit card information on authenticated sites. You can tell whether a site is secure by looking for the prefix “https” before the web address, or a green bar around your search bar when you go to checkout.
-Keep yourself up to date on any large-scale data breaches that occur. Large retail data breaches are becoming more and more commonplace, and it’s impossible to know when the next one will be, or which store will be affected. If a data breach occurs at a store you frequent, be proactive: call or check the store’s website for specific information, and if the situation warrants it, cancel your card and request a new one from your financial institution. Some retailers may offer free credit monitoring services for a limited time after a large-scale breach, but it’s also a good idea to consider making those kinds of services a permanent part of your defense against identity theft.
-Hold off on that social media post. While cyber-crime is a growing threat, you should also protect yourself from the threat of burglary. Refrain from sharing your holiday travel plans with your entire social network; letting the world know you’ll be on vacation for a week could give a prospective burglar a golden opportunity to break into your home.
For more tips on staying safe during your holiday shopping, check out this article from the Washington Post.