Preventing Holiday Identity Theft

Ensuring the busy shopping season doesn’t put your data at risk.

Identity theft isn’t just a problem at the holidays, but with so much shopping going on – much of which is online these days – most people are at an increased risk of having their information or data stolen. From mass data breaches at major retailers to online purchases on unprotected websites, there are plenty of ways you can compromise your data during the busiest shopping season of the year.

The tips below can help reinforce the identity theft prevention strategy you have in place so you can ensure you keep your information safe during the holidays. And remember, if your holiday credit card issues are the result of overcharging rather than ID theft, we can help. Call Consolidated Credit today at 1-888-294-3130 for a free debt analysis from a certified credit counselor or complete an application to request help online.

Pay attention to how you make in-store purchases

Data breaches at the holidays give smart thieves a chance to steal account information for thousands of shoppers in one convenient go. They tend to target major retailers, because that means more transactions they can cover to steal card info.

Is the solution to stop shopping at major retailers entirely?

Of course not.

Instead, choose a payment method that protects your data. Paying cash is best because it leaves no personal data in the systems of any store. So even if a store’s records are hacked, the thieves won’t get any account info from you.

If you decide to opt for paying with plastic, choose the card carefully. Debit cards help you avoid interest charges on your purchases so you can prevent a debt hangover, but if mass records get stolen from the retailer, your main bank account can be at risk of theft and fraudulent charges. If the account gets drained, you can be in big trouble. Debit is best avoided during holiday purchasing – hit a no-fee ATM first to pull out cash and then head to the stores to shop.

Credit cards keep your main source of cash flow safe, but give thieves access to your open credit line if the store’s systems are compromised. If you do opt to use a credit card, choose a card with a low credit limit and/or a card with good fraud protection. This way, if your account info is stolen, you limit the damage and the hassle you’ll have dealing with it.

Change your thinking for online purchases

Online shopping is convenient and can be less of a hassle for you, but it also puts you at an increased risk for identity theft. One method to avoid the potential of identity theft is to use an online account payment service, such as PayPal.

With these kinds of payment services, you put money into a separate account that’s not attached to your bank account or credit card information. It’s good for two reasons:

  1. You can only spend money you actually have in the account.
  2. There is no account information to get hacked or stolen.

So you have limited funds in a finite account. If thieves do get your info, they would only at best get your PayPal login credentials which significantly limits the damage they can do.

If you opt for plastic instead of an online account, again, you have to be careful about using the account number for your main bank account with debit. You put your entire line of free cash flow that you need to pay bills and cover things like groceries at risk of being drained.

For credit card transactions, choose a card with a limited credit line to minimize the damage if your information gets compromised. If possible, put all of your holiday purchases on the same card and watch the transactions that post to that card online to ensure all of the charges being made are yours.

Beware Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

These types of tools make it easy to connect to your accounts and shop online no matter where you are in the world, but they also make it easier for thieves to target your information. “Bluebugging” allows savvy fraudsters to hack any device that has its Bluetooth activated in the thief’s vicinity. Once they access your device, they can access any apps and personal information you have stored.

In order to avoid this, don’t keep your Bluetooth constantly active – particularly on your smart phone. You should not use Bluetooth in public places or if you do, you should only have it activated for the limited amount of time you need it for something specific.

Wi-Fi Hotspots are another convenience that allow you to get online in public spaces. However, using public Wi-Fi to shop or bank online puts you at risk for identity theft. Don’t use public Wi-Fi to make holidays purchases online.  Wait until you’re home on a secure Wi-Fi network.