Holiday Identity Theft: How to Stay Safe While Shopping  

Identity theft concerns are escalated during the holiday shopping season. Be aware and take these steps to protect yourself from holiday identity theft.

From holiday shopping, Black Friday deals, online promotions and more, the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for shoppers. This year, in the midst of COVID-19, shopping online for the holidays is expected to be even bigger than ever before. Unfortunately, the growing popularity of online shopping is also a big attraction for identity thieves looking to steal consumer’s information online.

Don’t let the distractions of gift buying make you a target for fraud. See here how you can avoid holiday identity theft and continue to enjoy the joyous season.

What is Identity Theft? 

Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information without your permission, like Social Security or bank account numbers.

These crimes are usually financial. For example, identity thieves might use stolen credit card numbers, withdraw from victims’ bank accounts or open unauthorized credit cards or bank loans. In more elaborate schemes, criminals even use the stolen personal information to get a job, take out an insurance policy, rent a home or apply for a mortgage in the victim’s name.

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Information about Identity Theft

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were 3.2 million identity theft and fraud reports received in the U.S. in 2019, amounting to more than $1.9 billion in losses. About 20% of these complaints were related to identity theft. These were the most common types of identity theft reports:

    • Credit card fraud
    • Loan or lease fraud
    • Phone or utility fraud
    • Bank fraud

Most identity theft reports came from individuals aged 30-39.

Causes of Holiday Identity Theft

holiday-identity-theft-image-2It’s no secret that people spend a lot of time shopping during the holidays. Consumers are conducting more transactions now than most other times of the year, with shopping both in-store and online and ATM withdrawals.

This year could see even more online transactions than ever, with many people turning to internet shopping because of COVID-19. But if you are shopping in-store, be aware of the tendency to hurry around to beat the rush, get the best deals or finish their shopping as quickly as possible. This sense of urgency can result in a lack of focus on essential things. It can become easier to lose track of personal items or take less caution around transactions.

How to Prevent Holiday Identity Theft

There are plenty of ways to lower your risk of becoming an identity theft victim. Based on how you are shopping, here are some tips to help you stay safe:

For In-Store Holiday Shopping:

If you’re shopping in stores, make sure to pay attention to your belongings. It can be easy to become a target for pickpockets if you’re juggling bags and not keeping an eye on your personal possessions.

Do your best to cover your credit or debit card information while conducting a transaction. Cellphones make it incredibly easy for someone to take a photo of your personal information. Keep an eye out for credit card skimmers as well. Never use an ATM or card reader that appears like it’s been tampered with.

For Holiday Online Shopping:

So if you’re shopping online, make sure to purchase from secured sites only. If you ever see something that looks suspicious, visit an establishment’s website directly and don’t click on strange links sent to you. Avoid shopping on public Wi-Fi and make sure your computer has up-to-date security software.

How your AAA Membership Can Help

ProtectMyID® Essential, a basic identity theft protection program provided by Experian, is offered to AAA members at no cost. Take the first step in protecting yourself from holiday identity theft and enroll at AAA.com/IDTheft.

How to Report Identity Fraud

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If you think your personal information has been compromised, immediately report it to the credit card company, applicable financial institution and the police. Identity theft incidents or attempts also can be reported to agencies such as the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.

With these tips and tools, you can take steps to ensure your information remains safe this holiday season. No matter what your holiday routine looks like, AAA wishes you a safe and happy season.

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