With the holiday season just around the corner, many people are trying to get their minds off of the struggling economy. But single-income families and aren’t the only ones looking for a deal when shopping at the mall. Identity theft usually goes up during the shopping season, and this is for two reasons. First of all, there are more people shopping and more opportunities to swipe someone’s information. And secondly, more people tend to turn to this crime when they have lost their jobs but still want to have a little “Christmas” of their own.
With a lack-luster economy identity theft has actually gone up, and it should be pretty obvious why. But this desperation to buy gifts for those screaming children at any cost, even if it means stealing someone’s credit card information to use it online, shows the inner-Grinch coming out in some. But if you want to avoid the Grinch from ruining your identity theft-free Christmas, follow some of these guidelines below.
Don’t let that credit card go out of your site
For about $20 you can by a credit card swiper which records all the numbers on that credit card every time it is swiped. Unfortunately some restaurant workers and retail store employees have started using these devices to make a little extra “on the side”. Keep that card in site to make sure nothing scrupulous is going on. Behind that counter may be a little Grinch.
Turn off your smart phone’s WiFi features
Some smart phones will automatically connect to a public internet hotspot if it finds one. The problem is that some of these hotspots are fake and created by identity thieves with the express purpose of extracting information from your phone. Turn off this feature and only use the WiFi when you know you can trust the network.
Avoid Facebook scams that give away prizes
This does not mean that every Facebook promotion is out to steal your money. Most of them are probably legit. But you do need to be aware of certain scams on the social networking site that promise a $1,000 gift card for submitting your personal information. Just use your head and see if it makes sense to give away your personal information for what is being promised.
Don’t go phishing
Phishing schemes are emails that look like they are from legitimate companies but they are actually from hackers trying to get your password or financial information. Always go to the website directly and do NOT use the links in an email if you are suspicious in any way.
Use caution when shopping online
You can get some great Christmas deals when shopping online, and this year’s cyber Monday was a huge success for online retailers, but you still need to be cautious. When you are on the payment page make sure the address bar starts with a https. The “s” means the page should be secure. You should also look for other signs like VeriSign logos to make sure the page is secure. If you have questions about a site just do a quick search on BBB.com. And you can always call the number on the website to talk to a real person to verify a site’s authenticity.
Stay Away from Fake iPad and iPhone Offers
There are a lot of these at Christmas time. They promise to give you a free iPad if you simply enter your email address, but then they want more and more information. Now, some of these are legit even though they are annoying to fill out all of the surveys. Just know that if they ask you for your credit card information for something that is “supposed” to be free, there is a big red flag there.
It’s a shame that identity theft does not take a holiday even at Christmas time, but by being smart and vigilant shoppers we can avoid the Grinch this season. Well, we can at least avoid him until it’s time to untangle the lights.