How to Avoid ID Theft Over the Holidays

Asian family of four celebrating Christmas
You’re busy during the holiday season – shopping, decorating, and baking – and may be less cautious than normal about your financial information. Identity thieves know this and are just waiting to take advantage of you.

In addition to plain old wallet snatching, there are lots of digital ways thieves may try to access your information. You’ve probably heard of phishing (fraudulent email), but now you also have to look out for vishing (voice mail) and smishing (text message) attempts to gain access to your sensitive personal information. Each type of fraud is designed to get you to reveal your account numbers, passwords, social security number, and credit card numbers. Thieves are very clever so you need to be extra careful, especially during the holidays.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re shopping – online or in a store - for those perfect holiday gifts.

Online Security

If you’re doing a lot of online holiday shopping, check to make sure the site is verified by TRUSTe and the URL begins with https://. Don’t be tempted to shop on a computer at the library or while you’re enjoying a coffee at your favorite café - only shop from your home computer with a private WIFI connection. And finally, don’t ever store your card information on a retail site – it may be convenient but it’s not always safe.

Store Security

Crowded stores are perfect places for ID thieves to hide among all the shoppers. Before you leave for the mall, clean out your wallet and only carry one credit card so if it’s stolen, you won’t have lost everything. Be sure to keep a written record at home of all your credit cards, account numbers, and phone numbers to call if they’re lost. When you make a purchase, always run your debit card as credit so you don’t have to punch in your PIN. And of course, don’t leave your purse in your shopping cart or a dressing room where it might get snatched or fall into the wrong hands.

What should you do if, despite your best efforts, your information is stolen?

  • Contact all the financial institutions where you have accounts as they may need to be closed.
  • If your credit card information has been stolen, contact the credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
  • If you think your Social Security number has been compromised, visit IdentityTheft.gov and file a report.

The faster you act, the better the chances are of minimizing the damage a thief might do. Call Hanscom FCU immediately at 800-656-4328 if you believe your account, credit, or debit card has been breached. Even if you're unsure, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Wishing you a safe, secure, and happy holiday season!

Learn more ways to guard against identity theft in the video below.

 

 

 

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About Author

Bill Burpeau
Bill Burpeau

Bill Burpeau is a relationship manager at Hanscom FCU. As a Credit Union Certified Financial Counselor, he is an enthusiastic advocate of financial literacy and education. He constantly studies and is up to date with the latest financial management concepts and technology. Bill is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a BBA in Business Management and served in the U.S. Navy as a Supply Officer.

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