Holiday Identity Theft Brings Increased Risk


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — E-commerce spending due to the holidays is expected to jump to $61.8 billion, a 15% increase from last year, according to eMarketer and Burst Media. What comes with online spending is a potential for fraud. Last year, $21 billion was stolen through identity theft.

"People are busy shopping for the holidays, making several purchases at more than one location," said Mark R. Desrochers, president of personal lines of insurance at The Hanover. "In addition to online threats, it's easy to drop a receipt or leave a credit card somewhere without realizing it.Identity thieves are increasingly savvy and aggressive at targeting holiday shoppers."

About 50% of consumers will use a smart phone and two-fifths will use a tablet to make purchases, but technological with progress comes risk.

"One of the easiest ways for thieves to steal identities on a tablet or smart phone is when it is not password protected," said Rip Mason, LegalShield's CEO. It may be inconvenient to enter a password each time a tablet or smart phone is used but it will definitely help protect information."

In 2012, the number of victims totaled 12.6 million, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In fact, identity theft has been first on the FTC's list of consumer complaints for three consecutive years.

Using a remote device increases the chances of a hacker accessing personal data. Use secure sites and systems to decrease the risk.

"Mobile devices and tablets often store personal information such as login information for financial sites and credit cards saved on retail sites," Desrochers said. "If the device is stolen that information can be more valuable than the equipment itself."

Once compromised, it can take hours for an identity theft victim to extricate themselves and re-establish identity. Total time spent to resolve cases averaged more than 37 hours per victim, according to the FTC.

Charges for items not purchased that appear on a billing statement is one sign an individual's identity has been compromised.

"It is important to monitor your monthly credit card statements and credit reports as frequently as possible," said Desrochers.

Common holiday shopping scams include:

Shoulder shopping: When shopping in crowded stores, it's easier for a fraudster to oversee card information at the register. Cover your hand when inputting your PIN for debit card transactions.

Cloud scamming: Typing personal information into a website when online shopping can create risk for data breach. Only use websites that are secured with https:// rather than http://.

Email phishing: Emails with great deals can be a scam. Don't enter credit card information unless familiar with the company. Costly Free WiFi - When travelling and logging into free Wi-Fi hotspots, hackers are known to set up fake hot spots in an airport, for example, which then allows them to steal passwords and other personal information.

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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