The modern-day Scrooge can strike under many guises this holiday season, from a phishing link to full-blown identity theft. And since this holiday season is forecasted to be a particularly “tech" one, with more shoppers heading online and turning to their smartphones to purchase gifts, according to the National Retail Federation, you may be at risk to be tricked or fooled by someone on the naughty list.
Test your knowledge on identity theft during the holiday season.
According to the NRF, retailers in 2016 are expected to invest in solutions that simplify the shopping experience for consumers while incorporating smart technology for shoppers.
Technology will influence the upcoming holiday shopping season in many more ways. Look for Virtual Reality, mobile and alternative payments, location based strategies and new in-store experiences, according to the NRF.
Here are 8 ways to avoid holiday identity theft this year.
- Use Legitimate Sites When Shopping Online
There are signs to help indicate that a website is secure, such as “https" in the Web address and an icon of a locked padlock on the left side of the URL.
You should also be sure that emails sent to you with promotional links don't point back toward an altered link, often with one or two letters missing or changed. This could signal a phishing scam, designed to fool you into entering personal information, like your credit card number or your email and password, which may later be used in an attempt to compromise your identity.
- Use a Secure Network
When shopping online, avoid using a public Wi-Fi connection that is not password protected. Also consider using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN which directs your online activity through a secure, private network.
Remember that your phones and computers are also gateways to your personal information, so make sure they are password-protected and also secure.
- Be Careful of What You Share Online
Over-sharing information such as your children's names and dates of birth or even holiday plans can lead thieves lurking on your “friend" list to gain access to valuable information that could help them hack into your online accounts or even know when you're out of town to attempt to break into your property.
- Choose Cash or Credit over Debit
Credit cards provide more protection when it comes to fraudulent activity, since credit card companies monitor suspicious activity and can put a stop to fraudulent charges before they happen. Debit cards, on the other hand, immediately withdraw money from your account and don't offer the same level of protection.
- Use Protection Tools
Also take advantage of protection tools, such as ID theft alerts, enrolling in an identity theft protection company plan, and new chip cards, which add an extra layer of protection for consumers. If you haven't received a new card with a chip from your company, you should request one before you begin your holiday shopping. While no one can prevent identity theft or monitor all transactions, enrolling in an identity theft protection service such as LifeLock offers its members alerts, for example, when it detects someone trying to open a new account in their name.
Enrolling in an identity theft protection program and monitoring service like LifeLock can help protect your identity going forward. Protection like this gives you peace of mind knowing your identity is being proactively monitored, regardless of whether the next data breach hits close to home.
- Be Careful When Opening New Retail Credit Accounts
Many stores offer attractive discounts and incentives to those who open a store credit card account, but it's important that shoppers remain conscientious throughout the enrollment process. For example, you may be required to write down your Social Security number or other personal information when opening an account. Be sure no one is spying over your shoulder when you do so, and ask the sales associate how your information will be discarded after it is entered into the system.
If you receive promotional offers through email that seem too good to be true, be sure to do your due diligence. You'll want to make sure these offers are legitimate and secure before submitting any personal information.
- Be Leery of Skimmers
Remain on the lookout for devices attached to card readers or ATMs that could steal your financial data. Also watch out for anyone behind you in a checkout line that could be snapping a photo of your credit card number or other personal information.
- Check Your Statements and Credit Reports Twice
Always check over your credit card statements and credit reports, especially during high-volume shopping periods like the holiday season. Remain vigilant and inquire about any suspicious activity to catch any attempt at identity theft before it escalates.