‘Tis the Season for Identity Theft

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Black Friday: The official kick off to the annual year-end shopping spree for millions of Americans.

Then, there is Cyber Monday, luring customers to shop online with bargains and sales not found in stores.

We’re all guilty of it, prowling stores and shopping websites in desperate search for that perfect holiday gift. Unfortunately, our shopping activity during the holiday season also provides prime hunting grounds for criminals and hackers to steal your money, or worse, your identity.

Some of the most common online threats include phishing, online scams and computer viruses.  However, the latest trends most likely haven’t even crossed your mind. Mobile phones and social media are now also at risk since most consumers use their phones to shop, store personal information and share their real-time location using public Wi-Fi.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), last year 127 million shoppers logged on to complete purchases and 25 million of those used their cell phones or tablets to complete transactions.

This year, NRF predicts that nearly half of consumers  will shop online and more than 20% will complete a purchase on a mobile device. Total online sales are estimated to reach roughly $105 billion.

You may be thinking, “Not me, I am smart when it comes to protecting my financial information,” but during the holiday season, most of us are guilty of letting our guard down as we increase our spending. Here are some of the reasons we, as consumers, are more vulnerable during the holidays:

  • We use our credit cards more frequently.
  • We pay using credit cards that rarely we use the rest of the year and may not be on top of checking our transactions.
  • We shop on bargain websites.
  • We shop more online in general.
  • We are ordering more items in the mail.

So how can we prevent someone from stealing our identity this holiday season?

  • Regularly update security software on personal computers.
  • Do not enter online contests unless you are sure they are legitimate.
  • Check credit reports and bank statements for suspicious activity.
  • Beware of email scams. REMEMBER: No legitimate company will ask for personal information via email.
  • Keep an eye out for your holiday packages.
  • Opt-out of marketing lists for pre-approved credit.
  • Be a savvy online shopper.
  • Shred it and forget it. Make sure any documents containing personal information or accounts are destroyed.
  • Do not share your location or other personal information on social media.
  • Minimize use of public internet connections. If you do need to use public Wi-Fi do not access any personal information or complete transactions while doing so. Anyone on a shared network can access your information if they know how.

Looking for more information on how to keep your identity secure this holiday season? Check out these following links:

10 Reasons Why You’re More Susceptible to Identity Theft During the Holidays

10 Ways to Avoid Identity Theft This Holiday Season

Holiday Trends and Expectations: NRF’s 2015 Holiday Survival Kit

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