December is finally upon us, which means the holidays are coming. While we’ll all be thinking about others during this time, it’s not selfish to be thinking about yourself when it comes to protecting your identity. The plethora of massive data breaches — and the millions of consumers they impact — remind us just how important this is. And with the holidays, the risk for identity fraud is only going to increase, since digitally connected consumers, who are likely to do their holiday shopping online, are 30% more likely to be a fraud victims, according to Javelin research.
So, how exactly do you ensure your identity stays yours during the holiday season? While EMV or ‘chipped’ cards have been helping to reduce fraud at brick-and-mortar retail, undeterred fraudsters have focused their efforts online. In fact, they’ve increased “card-not-present” fraud (which is when the customer does not physically present the card to the merchant during the fraudulent transaction) by 40% in 2016, according to Javelin research.
Worse yet, Account Takeover fraud, which is when a fraudster uses a victim’s account information (e.g., a credit card number) to obtain products and services using that person’s existing accounts, spiked by 61%. This just goes to show that fraudsters are the worst kind of innovators. And this also means that, with ever-increasing holiday gifts being purchased online, equipping yourself with identity theft protection tools is more important than ever.
Therefore, as a savvy consumer, it’s important to take a proactive approach to protecting your identity and it all starts with following these best practices:
- Be selective with your stores. It’s important you only shop from retailers you know and trust. When surfing the web for gifts, be sure to look for icons such as a padlock or unbroken key at the top or bottom of your browser as a sign that encryption is used.
- Create strong passwords. It’s important you safeguard the accounts containing personal information with a strong and unique password. The more complex your password is, the more difficult it will be to crack. An online account containing your sensitive data should not be locked with passwords like “12345” or “password.”
- Be wary of holiday scams. Crooks are hoping to trick eager and giving consumers into giving up their personal info with fake holiday scams. So, be careful about how much personal information you share online and never respond to emails or text messages requesting sensitive data unless you know and trust the source. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
- Regularly review your online account info. Things like regularly reviewing transactions online and making sure account contact info hasn’t changed are also good for keeping tabs on anyone trying to hijack your account.
- Set up an alert. If you know there’s a chance your personal data has been compromised, place a fraud alert on your credit so that any new or recent requests undergo scrutiny. This also entitles you to extra copies of your credit report so you can check for anything suspicious. If you find an account you did not open, report it to the police or Federal Trade Commission, as well as the creditor involved so you can close the fraudulent account.