How to Avoid Identity Theft

Two worried women having problems buying on line with a laptop and credit card sitting in a bar

The Christmas season is filled with friends and family, wonderful parties, delicious food and plenty of presents under the tree. But to get all those presents, we need to do a lot of shopping. This raises the risk of identity theft.

  Identity theft and Christmas are so closely linked that criminal gangs also look forward to this special time of year. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner, those criminal gangs ramp up their activity, increasing their efforts to separate consumers from their hard-earned money and even their very identities.

Enjoy a bountiful Christmas and avoid worry by implementing a few basic safety precautions. Here are some tips you can use to stay safe online and in stores this shopping season.

  1. Dedicate one credit card to online shopping and another to offline purchases. Keep your online card in a safe place at home and carry the offline card in your wallet.
  2. Check your credit card statements with a fine-toothed comb. Dedicating separate credit cards to online and offline purchases means you only have two cards to check, so check every purchase and match it up with your receipts.
  3. Turn down offers to save your credit card information. Some websites offer to save your payment information, but doing so will only increase your risk of fraudulent charges and identity theft. The extra convenience is simply not worth the higher risk.
  4. Shop only at sites you know and trust. Identity thieves and other criminals sometimes set up fake shopping sites to lure unwary shoppers and steal their payment information. Be cautious when responding to offers or working with companies that aren’t familiar.
  5. Protect your chip cards with a special case. PIN and chip cards are safer than their magnetic stripe counterparts, but thieves with special readers could capture the information remotely. Invest in a special blocking case for your credit cards and carry it with you whenever you shop.
  6. Keep your receipts in a safe place. Modern receipts don’t generally print the entire credit card number, but they can still contain information that would be valuable to an identity thief. Keeping your receipts in a safe place will make your life, and those post-holiday returns, a lot easier.
  7. Be aware of your surroundings. Look around you as you shop, watching out for purse snatchers and other petty criminals. Losing your wallet and your credit cards dramatically increases your risk of identity theft.
  8. Record the customer service phone numbers of your credit card issuers and keep them in a safe place. Having that information at hand will make it easier to cancel stolen cards, dispute fraudulent charges and notify issuers of suspicious activity.

Christmas should be a time of joy and family togetherness, not a time of risk and financial loss. Following the safe shopping tips outlined above can keep your identity safe and help you enjoy a merrier holiday season.


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Written by BEConrad

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