‘Tis the Season… for Identity Theft
Holiday shopping is more dangerous than you think.
Shopping has never been easier or more convenient. You can research items online, read reviews, and purchase them with your mobile phone or tablet. Carrying cash is going out of fashion—fast. According to a recent survey by U.S. Bank National Association, an overall 50% of consumers reported carrying cash less than half of the time. 47% also preferred to use digital apps to make payments.1
But with convenience also comes great risk. Last year, 15.4 million consumers were victims of identity theft or fraud, an increase of 16% from 2015.2 That number is expected to increase this year as thieves focus on sensitive digital information. It seems like a new mass-security breach is on the news every week with millions of accounts put at risk… Equifax, Netflix, and Uber have all suffered mass data breaches in the past year. The number of compromised accounts is staggering—and the damage costs add up very fast. Identity theft and fraud cost more than $16 billion for consumers in 2016.3
Fortunately, there are several basic steps you can take to help prevent identity or credit fraud during your holiday shopping. Here are our top 8 tips to stay safe:
- Don’t trust every online store. Fake websites are created by people who want to steal your credit card information and personal details. Before you shop online, research sites you haven’t shopped with before. Make sure they are legitimate and trustworthy with your information. If a site doesn’t seem secure, or there are reviews saying the seller can’t be trusted, take your business elsewhere.
- Purchase identity theft protection. Identity theft protection provides 24/7 monitoring and identity management services to help minimize the risk of an identity or fraud crisis. To discuss identity theft product options for your clients, contact New Benefits today.
- Never toss credit card receipts into a public trash container. We’ve all been in a situation when we don’t want a receipt (and tell the cashier to keep it, sending it straight to a general trash can). But un-shredded credit card receipts can be used to discover your full credit card number and other processing information. Instead, be sure to shred your receipts and throw them away at home.
- Carry receipts in your wallet instead of your shopping bag. This one can be tricky, given how busy and rushed we might feel at the register. It’s easier to throw the receipt in the bag, but it also means your credit card information is vulnerable. The receipt could fall out or be thrown away in a public trash bin and be found by thieves later.
- If you’re worried, pay with cash. If it doesn’t look like a business will handle your credit card information securely and safely, pay with cash instead. Be sure to carry a certain amount of cash with you just in case.
- When paying your bill, watch what waiters, cashiers, and bartenders are doing with your credit or debit card. One technique by fraudsters is to “skim” the credit card number and it use for later purchases. Pay close attention so this does not happen to you.
- When filling out applications for loans, credit, mobile phones or other services, find out how the company stores and disposes of your files. Every company has different standards for securing valuable information. Unfortunately, identity or credit thieves can exploit lax security to get your info. It’s especially important when your social security number, banking information, or tax ID is involved. Be careful when providing this information, and avoid it entirely if it’s not a requirement.
- Watch out for “skimmers” at public ATMs. Skimmers are devices placed over the card insert slot on ATMs designed to look like part of the machine. In reality, the credit card information is read and stored separately for a thief to retrieve later—or the information is sent directly to the nearby thief through a wireless connection. Inspect the card reader first before taking money from an ATM.
Be vigilant during your gift shopping this winter. The holidays can be stressful enough—don’t let credit or identity fraud add to it!