Identity Theft & Holiday Shopping: Scary Scenarios

  • Safe Holiday Spending

    Frantic, nationwide shopping both in stores and increasingly online, may make the holidays an especially risky time of year for identity theft and credit card fraud. The average holiday shopper is expected to spend about $682.74 this season, according to the National Retail Federation. Here are some tips from identity theft experts to keep in mind as you make your shopping plans and start buying gifts. Photo Credit: CarbonNYC
    Credit Instead of Debit
  • Credit Instead of Debit

    Scenario: You lose your debit card at the mall, someone gets a hold of it and drains hundreds or even thousands of dollars in purchases from your account. The purchases tie up your funds until the issue is resolved through your bank. Protection: Use credit instead of debit. “Debit cards are the gateway to your bank account, and in some cases, your life,” says Adam Levin, identity theft expert and Chairman of Identity Theft 911. Credit cards have greater liability protections than debit cards, Levin adds. When you’re shopping in stores, limit the credit cards and debit cards you carry, he advises. Photo Credit: Andres Rueda
    Avoid Phishy Sites
  • Avoid Phishy Sites

    Scenario: You go to what you think is an online retailer, enter credit card information and address. Your card is charged, but you don’t get a receipt or your purchase and your email to customer service gets bounced back. Protection: When in doubt, get out. Don’t visit sites that you’re not sure about. Read site reviews and blog comments to make sure a retailer’s Web site is legit. Web sites advertising free offers, or free offers with a small purchase, could just be out to get your personal information, says Lyn Oakes, Chief Marketing Officer at Trusted ID, an identity theft services company. So do your research before placing an order at a new online retailer. Photo Credit: Remko Van Dokkum
    Security Checks
  • Security Checks

    Scenario: Your name and password or credit card information are not transmitted securely to a retailer on the Web. A hacker gets a hold of it and uses it or sells it. Protection: Inspect before you shop. Look for “https” before an online retailer’s URL noting that you’re at a secure site or look for a little yellow padlock on your browser. You can double click on the lock to look at digital security certificates, notes Levin. And don’t shop from internet cafes or public, unsecured wireless networks, Oakes says. Photo Credit: CarbonNYC
    Change Up Your Numbers
  • Change Up Your Numbers

    Scenario: You enter your credit card information online or on a shared computer and someone gets a hold of it and charges up your account. Protection: Use one-time credit card numbers if available. For example, Citibank credit card holders can use virtual account numbers which are randomly generated for online use. If you don’t have access to random, one-time use numbers for online transactions, or as a general rule to make record-keeping easier, put all of your holiday purchases on the same credit card, Oakes suggests. Photo Credit: DeclanTM
    Keeping Secrets
  • Keeping Secrets

    Scenario: You lose your purse or wallet. Someone then applies for a credit card in your name. Protection: Don’t carry secrets in your purse. Avoid taking your social security card or any with personal information on them unless you can’t avoid it. When shopping online, do not provide your social security number or account passwords to anyone. Photo Credit: Mike Miley
    Secure Your Credit Card Numbers
  • Secure Your Credit Card Numbers

    Scenario: Your PayPal account gets hacked and an identity thief gets your credit card information and mailing address, makes fraudulent charges on your account and opens a new credit card account in your name. Protection: Keep your credit cards numbers to yourself, advises Levin of Identity Theft 911. Don’t store credit card information on any accounts if you can avoid it, especially if you have the same password for several different accounts, Levin says. Photo Credit: Mugley
    Don’t Be Predictable
  • Don’t Be Predictable

    Scenario: A hacker gets a hold of one of your passwords at a popular online retailer. That password happens to be the same as the ones you use at all online retailers. Protection: This may be difficult for some, but try to have different passwords for different online retailers you shop from regularly. If you have the same password for several online retailers but different card information with each retailer, all of your credit, debit and even bank account numbers could be accessible to identity thieves. Photo Credit: Amazon.com
    Taking Stock Daily
  • Taking Stock Daily

    Scenario: You haven’t checked your credit card or bank balances for a while and as a result you’ve missed fraudulent charges for a month or more. You blow pas your limit and as a result, access to your own money or credit is blocked. Protection: “Check your accounts every single day to make sure every single transaction makes sense,” Levin advises. Photo Credit: Geezeo.com
    Be Choosy With ATMs
  • Be Choosy With ATMs

    Scenario: A side-street ATM is secretly equipped with a card reader known as a skimmer and records the your PIN when you enter it. Someone reproduces your card, accesses your account, and before you know it, hundreds, even thousands of dollars are missing from your bank account. Protection: “Don’t use ATM machines that are in the middle of nowhere,” says Levin. They’re more likely to be equipped with card readers than an ATM in or nearby a bank, Levin explains. Photo Credit: laverrue
    Pay Attention
  • Pay Attention

    Scenario: You leave your purse on a clothing store shelf and someone takes it when you’re not looking. Or you reach for your wallet in your coat pocket and it’s not there anymore. Protection: Ladies, make sure your purse is firmly wedged between your arm and your side, and guys should keep their wallets in their front pockets, not back or jacket pockets, Levin advises. Photo Credit: Alyssa L. Miller
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