Black Friday, Cyber Monday, even Thanksgiving Day itself— the shopping season is upon us! Unfortunately, so are identity thieves. As holiday shopping kicks off in stores and online, shoppers will be focusing on finding the perfect present for the right deal; however, it’s equally important to pay attention to credit cards and other IDs. In the hectic atmosphere of holiday shopping, it’s easy to lose track of things, making it easier for scammers and thieves to access your personal information. Here are some tips to help you stay secure.
Before You Shop
- Minimize your wallet. Take out everything except the IDs and cards you’ll be using, so that if it gets stolen, you won’t have to replace everything.
- Don’t carry your Social Security Number with you. There is really no reason to carry around this all-important document, so it’s best if you keep it securely stored in a fireproof safe in your house.
- If you’ve had your identity stolen before, you might want to use a credit monitoring service to inform you daily or weekly about any suspicious changes to your credit activity. While these services can’t prevent identity theft, they can certainly minimize its impact by helping you act quickly.
- Apps like Mint.com can also help you track your finances, making it easier to spot activity that’s out of the ordinary.
- Write “check photo IDs” in ink on the back of your credit cards, by your signature. This way if your cards get stolen, the thief may not be able to use them.
In The Store
- Keep your cards close, only taking them out when you need them. This will prevent others from memorizing your card number, or taking photos of your card with a camera phone.
- Do not let your credit or debit card out of your sight. If the clerk has to turn their back to you in order to swipe your card, you may want to ask for it back. In general, if you don’t feel comfortable with giving the clerk your card, either pay with cash or come back later.
- Run your debit cards as credit to avoid using your PIN number. If you have to use a PIN, be sure to shield the keypad from wandering eyes.
- Traveler’s checks, while somewhat obsolete, can still be useful alternatives to credit cards. They’re almost impossible to use if they’re stolen, and they’re very easy to replace.
- Invest in a secure firewall, and make sure your computer has an updated spam filter, and up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programs.
- Be suspicious of unsolicited email. Phishing is when scammers send emails disguised as legitimate companies that ask for your personal information.
- Shop at legitimate online stores. if it looks questionable, it probably is.
- Only enter your credit information if the page is secure. You’ll be able to tell, since secure sites either display a padlock icon, or the url begins with “https” (the “s” stands for secure).
After The Spree
- Keep your receipts in one place, so that you can reference them later
- Monitor your credit statements closely. It may be a good idea to check your statements online rather than wait for them to arrive by mail. This way, you can spot any errors, and act on them, much more quickly.
- If you think you’ve been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, visit the Rocket Lawyer Identity Theft Protection Center for more help.
- Legal Tips for Holiday Travel (press.rocketlawyer.com)
- On PINs and Needles: Protecting Yourself Against Debit Card Fraud (article-3.com)
- Business Credit Cards Are Not for Everyone (article-3.com)