How Can I Protect My Identity for the Holidays?

Keep your information safe as you shop and spend

Dear Gary,

With all the data breaches and fraud reports on the news, I’m worried about giving thieves the gift of my identity at some point while I’m shopping this season. Are there any extra steps I can take at the holidays to prevent identity theft?

Katie S.
Dallas, TX

An expert answer from Gary Herman

In addition to the tips in the video above, here are some additional tips and reminders to help you keep your identity safe during the holidays this year:

  • Turn off the blue tooth connection on your mobile devices when you’re out shopping.
  • Don’t use public wireless access or local hotspots to shop online.
  • Don’t use your bank debit card to make online purchases; ideally, use a prepaid credit card or a low-limit credit card.
  • Lock your home wireless network with a password.
  • Change your account passwords before the end of the year and make them unique.
  • Don’t send any personal data or account information via email. You may receive legitimate fraud alert emails from your creditors, but they will never ask you to send or verify personal data via email. Instead, they will redirect you to a secure website or ask you to call in.
  • How to avoid online identity theftCheck your December statements carefully to make sure you recognize all of the charges.
  • If you haven’t reviewed your credit report already this year, download a copy for free through annualcreditreport.com and review your report for accounts you didn’t open and other suspicious activity.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft and someone has opened an account in your name, follow these steps:

  1. Call the police (their nonemergency line) and file a report.
  2. Call the credit card company and talk to their fraud department.
  3. Contact at least one of the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion) to have a fraud alert on your profile to prevent additional fraudulent accounts from being opened.

Remember, you shouldn’t be on the hook financially for any accounts opened fraudulently in your name. You also aren’t responsible for charges made on an account that you did not authorize. If you see mysterious charges you didn’t make, simply call the creditor to report the suspicious activity and work with them to get those charges removed.