Increased spending activity means increased risk for identity theft.
The holidays certain make that first part true; therefore, the second is true as well.
Certainly the fear about identity theft is down from what it used to be, but the majority of Americans (54%) were worried about identity theft as recently as 2015.
The wolves are out, and you need to know how to spot them—or at least leave them hungry.
1) Cover Your PIN
It may seem paranoid to cover your PIN typing with both hands, but it’s not.
For now, we still use PINs when we make purchases, and that means the threat of “casual” onlookers is still real. Often, credit card processors have little to no visual protection, removing a major roadblock for anyone looking to steal your payment information.
2) Rein in That Wallet
It’s not enough to protect passwords and PINs. You need to keep a hold on your physical credit or debit card as well.
What works for each person in the way of info protection varies. Some people use clip-on accessories on their phones to hold credit cards. For many, this is the safest place imaginable, since they never, ever detach themselves from their phone. For most, this is an invitation for disaster.
Even if it’s just for the holiday season, consider keeping cards and other personal items in a case around your neck, attached to your pants, or in a fanny pack.
Just kidding, please don’t actually use a fanny pack.
3) Never Let Your Cards Out of Your Site
This one is pretty extreme, but so is having your information stolen by the high number of waiters and clerks who will be handling your card this holiday season.
If you’re as serious as possible about protecting your identity and payment information, ask to be present as waiters swipe your card, or choose to only frequent places that process payments out among guests.
You’ll seem a little loony, but you can just try to be a really nice person to the waiter and that should make everything OK. A nice tip won’t hurt, either.
4) Verify eCommerce Websites
Many eCommerce websites are shams, cleverly built up by criminals.
As a University of California article puts it, “If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Try to online shop online from vendors you are familiar with or can easily verify through customers service calls, reviews, and peer recommendations.
5) Don’t Carry Your Social Security Card Around
Just don’t ever do that.
6) Guard Personal Information Inside Your Home
No one ever suspects that their house guests are ill-intentioned, but this is foolish.
First, understand that identity thieves don’t have a look. They will not give themselves away by their shady posture and white/black horizontal-striped shirts. Sometimes, they’re the people you like or trust a lot.
You can protect yourself without accusing or being suspicious of any one individual by generally protecting your information items. Keep social security cards, wallets, and written-down passwords deep in the recesses of your drawers, closets, or safes.
You’ll be protected from active criminals who have found their way in your home, and you’ll remove any temptation from those who might do something rash out of circumstantial desperation.
7) Purchase Identity Theft Insurance
No one thinks it’s going to happen until it does.
Identity theft insurance is relatively cheap, considering how helpful it is if you actually run into an unfortunate theft. Here are a few providers that Reviews.com recommends.
8) Watch Out for Malicious Emails
Any email with links should make you put your guard up. Links are often completely harmless, but others are not at all.
Many fraudulent emails have fake tracking numbers or similar falsehoods and are trying to collect your info.
9) Use Secured Apps for Sensitive Information
It’s not the worst idea to tuck physical card information far away from danger and to carry information around with you (especially your social) on an app. But make sure that app is trusted and secure.
There are plenty of trustworthy password managers.
10) Don’t Text Your Social, Even Though You Really Want To
I know it’s just your mom, and she says she’s going to delete it, but haven’t you always been suspicious that Mama’s been covertly working on behalf of an underground crime ring your whole life, anyway? Just play it safe.
11) Run Away From Pop-Ups
Anything promising lots of money or impossibly good vacations or deals should be avoided at all costs.
12) Don’t Shop on Unfamiliar Devices
Try to only use your own devices for holiday shopping. This is especially true if they’re publicly usable. Never use internet cafes or library computers or any other public device for shopping.
13) Check Your Account Statements Frequently
Even if you regularly check charges every month, you should consider looking over your statements even more frequently during the holidays. In all the flurry of shopping activity, it can be easy to miss a few extra charges, but you’ll want to address them right away rather than waiting for the busy season to die down and wondering why things feel a bit tight financially.
14) If You Use Credit Cards, Consider Using Them for Shopping Over Debit Cards
Credit cards offer more protections than debit cards do. And you can dispute charges before they actually come out.
Whereas, if your debit card information is stolen, it will draw out of your bank account before you know what’s happened. Which is a mess. Obviously.
15) Don’t Shop Using Public Wi-Fi
According to U.S. News, a criminal can access the information passed through a network, so even if you’re using a familiar device, using public Wi-Fi can leave you unprotected.
Be sure your own Wi-Fi at home is password protected and secure.
There’s no reason your jolly season should turn to despair, all because of malicious criminals who want to take what’s yours.
Follow these preventative and careful steps, and this holiday season will be smooth sailing for you—at least when it comes to not losing your identity.
By: Ryan Drawdy
December 4, 2017