Since the 2020’s sharp spike in cybercrime, the risk of identity theft has climbed higher than ever. Now that the holiday season is in full swing, you can expect fraudsters to be working overtime trying to take advantage of shoppers, both in person and online. Not exactly a holly jolly thought!
If you want to make sure your information isn’t stolen as a result of Christmas shopping sprees, make sure you're aware of these 5 risk factors. Understanding how your identity is at risk during the holidays and knowing the signs will help you protect yourself and your identity this winter.
1.) A Prevalence of Pickpockets
Make sure that you’re aware of your surroundings when you’re out Holiday shopping. Crowded shopping malls are the perfect place for pickpockets to find unsuspecting victims. Here’s a few tips to keep your wallet and cards safe during your outing:
- Put your wallet away in your purse every time you complete a transaction.
- Use a purse that closes all the way with a zipper or a snap.
- If you don’t use a purse, double check that your wallet is with you at all times.
- To hold a foldable wallet, use your front pocket instead of your back pocket
A tip to avoid the “digital” pickpocket, also known as a “shoulder surfer”: If you’re paying with a debit or credit card, cover your card as you pay. You don’t want anyone behind you to be able to take a picture of your card information or see you enter your pin.
2.) Criminal Card Skimmers
Speaking of credit and debit cards, card skimmers are another fraudster-strategy to watch out for.
A card skimmer is a device that is illegally installed on a card reader to collect credit or debit card numbers. Most often found at gas stations and ATM card readers, card skimmers can also show up in retail stores or restaurants. You can usually spot a card skimmer with a quick physical inspection, if you know what to look for.
At a gas pump, there is usually a sticker over the cabinet panel. If the sticker is intact, that’s an indication that the card reader is safe to use. If the sticker is broken or voided (meaning it literally has the word “void” written across it), then the card reader may have been compromised.
In any situation, if you notice that a card reader sticks out a little far, or that it’s at an odd angle, that’s also a red flag. Even more so if you can shift and move the card reader.
The best way to prevent your card information from being stolen by a card skimmer is to:
- Inspect every card reader you come across.
- Use your credit card instead of a debit card (it’s much easier to refund credit if your card information is stolen).
- If you really want to be safe at gas stations and ATMs, only pay for gas from inside the gas station and withdraw money from inside the bank.
If you suspect you’ve spotted a card skimmer, make sure to let the attendant, cashier, or manager know right away.
3.) Pirates Surfing Public WiFi
Public WiFi is extremely convenient, especially when you’re out shopping and don’t want to use your data. However, if you’re tempted to check the balance on your bank accounts while shopping and using the mall’s WiFi, don’t.
Hackers love public WiFi, because the information transmitted is generally unencrypted. That means it's not just the hotspot that's public; it's your data, too. This gives hackers lots of opportunity to intercept and steal your data.
You can guard against these kinds of attacks by simply refraining from looking at sensitive information while using public WiFi. Or, if you want to feel extra secure, you can invest in a VPN for your device.
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) scramble your personal information so that it can’t be read without the correct decryption key (most of the time). There are both free and paid VPNs out there, and if you regularly use public WiFi, a VPN is essential.
4.) Fraudsters Testing the Waters
How often do you check your bank statements? With online banking, you can easily check your bank balance as well as your recent transactions. During the Holidays when frauds and scams become more frequent, it’s important that you check your bank balances and activity frequently, as well.
Fraudsters who’ve stolen your identity or card information will often “test the waters” by making small, insignificant purchases, to see if your card is safe for them to use. If you (or your bank) fail to catch this transaction, the scammer will then feel that they have the “green light” to make larger purchases.
Because people tend to make a high amount of purchases during the Holiday season, it can be much easier to miss unusual charges to one’s account.
Furthermore, many banks have policies in place that only allow them to refund money from fraudulent charges if they occurred within a certain time period relative to the date it was caught. The sooner you catch someone using your card information, the more likely it is that you’ll be refunded.
5.) Online Scammers
Your identity is at a higher risk during the holidays, and nowhere is that more true than during online shopping. Online shopping has become extremely popular in recent years, and why shouldn’t it be? You get to make your list and check it twice, all from the comfort of your own home. But as e-commerce rises, so does cybercrime.
Cybercriminals have gotten very creative when it comes to scamming shoppers. Good rules of thumb when it comes to avoiding online scams include:
- Don’t click any link from senders you don’t recognize (in emails or text messages).
- Before entering payment information, check to make sure the hyperlink reads “Https” and not “Http”—the “s” means your payment information is secured.
- Double check all email addresses. Scammers will often use addresses that look just like that of a reputable organization, but just one or two letters off.
Want more great information on how to stay safe while shopping online? Check out our recent blog article “10 Tips For Safer Online Shopping” here.
To learn more about solutions to protect yourself, your customer, and your business from fraud and identity theft, consider an identity theft protection plan from Securus Partner Solutions. Browse our website today or contact us at +1 (877) 833-9041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.