Ho ho ho! Are you getting ready to play “Christmas Elf” and fulfill wishes for loved ones this holiday season? We advise you to be careful and shop wisely!! Seasonal busyness and increased personal and financial stress often lead shoppers to drop their guard and follow that link that promises special bargains, or be more willing to sign up for credit cards or deals that require personal information.
And this is exactly what identity thieves are waiting for!
December is peak season for crooks of all types. So, apply the same safety precautions to your personal data that you would apply to your home or car. Here are 6 Tips to Remember as you enter into the busy holiday season:
1. Home’s Not Necessarily the Safest Place
It’s sad but true: According to TransUnion, the ID theft victim knew their offender personally in 16% of identity theft cases, and six percent of all victims identified the thief as a family member. As you open your home to family and friends for celebrations and festivities this year, take precautions and hide away bills, checkbooks and other personal documents.
2. Check the Paperwork
Nope, studying your account statement doesn’t nearly come close to reading a traditional holiday tale. But still, take a few minutes to scan your bank accounts, financial reports and credit card statements. In the abundance of spending, it can be easy to lose track – and dollars – if you’re not vigilant.
Consider signing up for automatic account alerts that notify you of every expense from your bank account. Also, keep copies of the front and back of your credit cards on file for easier data access in case of theft or loss.
3. Use Credit — not Debit, Check or Cash
Debit transactions draw funds directly from your bank account, and once the money’s out, it can be very hard to dispute the expense. This can sorely affect you if you have bills to pay and no money left in your bank account. The same is true for checks or cash.
Credit cards don’t instantly transfer funds out of your account, and, additionally, allow you up to 90 days to dispute or question charges. When it comes to online or in-store shopping, it’s the safer way to go.
4. Leave your Purse at Home
The good, old-fashioned pick-pocket method is still an efficient way to access your money. Except that these days, thieves often score twice when they get their hands on your purse or wallet: First, the instant satisfaction of cash, phone or other valuables that you might carry with you – and then, the long-term ‘value’ of fraudulent access to your bank accounts.
Don’t let them! When you go shopping, carry only your ID and one or two payment cards in a front pocket to reduce the chance of theft.
5. Resist the Call for Discounts
As you watch your Christmas budget’s ceiling shatter (again), resist the urge to sign up for in-store credit cards. For one, too many credit cards can affect your finances negatively in the long run. But secondly, don’t forget that many stores and chains hire temporary help for the holidays. Not all temp agencies conduct background checks, and as a result you may be handing your card or credit application to an employee… who might not treat it with the care it deserves.
And speaking of discounts: It’s a smart move to find the best deal. But beware of discounts and sites that promise retail prices far below the “big name” average. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you consider shopping on a website you don’t know, invest a few minutes to do your homework: Check reviews, look for quality seals and make sure the site uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer.)
6. Watch your Phone
An increasing number of consumers conduct business from their cell phone. Keep in mind that a mobile device is no guarantee for cyber security. Online forms can still capture your information, whether it’s entered from a 2003 desktop or from the latest smart phone.
Not least, your phone can be an open book when it comes to financial data and personal information. Keep good track of it.
Bottom line: Protect yourself (and your Christmas season) from grinch-like surprises. A little vigilance can go a long way in keeping the sparkle in your Holiday season. Remember that December is Id Theft Prevention and Awareness Month for a reason!
Remember: McClain Insurance policy feature ID theft protection and support. For more information, please give us a call at 425-379-9200, or simply fill out the form, below: