The holidays are here, and many of us are starting to shop for the perfect gifts for family and friends. But as the busy holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, scammers are getting ready, too. While identity theft is a year-round concern, scammers take advantage of all the holiday distractions to target shoppers in-store and online.
So, what can you do to keep your accounts and personal information secure over the holidays? Shop smart and protect your identity with these helpful tips.
How to avoid holiday identity theft:
There's a lot you can do to help keep your personal information out of the wrong hands this holiday season. For example —
When shopping online:
- Look for the lock symbol and “https" in the address bar. This means the website is secure and safe to enter your payment information.
- Use strong, complex passwords on your accounts and don't use the same password for multiple website logins.
- Be suspicious of emails or social media posts promoting special offers that seem too good to be true. The links could take you to a fraudulent website that captures your personal information.
- Only shop on well-known, reputable websites.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks.
When shopping in-store:
- Stay alert and aware of your surroundings.
- Keep your purse or wallet close to your body.
- Don't carry your Social Security card with you—leave it at home in a secure place.
- Avoid leaving packages or shopping bags in your car.
- When using an ATM or gas station card reader, cover the keypad with your hand. Don't enter your information if the card reading device looks like it's been tampered with.
Especially during the holidays, keep a close eye on your bills and account statements. When you're making multiple purchases in one day, it can be easy to overlook a fraudulent charge, so monitor your activity carefully!
What are the signs of identity theft?
Unfortunately, identity theft can happen to anyone, even if you take steps to prevent it.
Here are some of the signs that someone may have access to your information:
- You see withdrawals or charges on your accounts or credit cards that you didn't make.
- You stop getting bills or other mail that you used to receive.
- You get new statements from services you didn't use, such as utility or medical bills.
- Debt collectors contact you about debts you don't have.
- When reviewing your credit report, you notice unfamiliar activity, such as accounts you didn't open.
- You receive a change of address confirmation letter that you didn't expect.
- The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name.
- Your credit card or loan application is denied due to a fraud alert on your credit report.
- A service where you have an account or company you do business with announces a data breach. You will usually receive a notice that your information was compromised by the data breach.
What to do if you think you've been a victim of identity theft:
If you discover that your personal information has been lost, stolen or exposed, it's important to take action right away to prevent the fraud from continuing.
Follow these steps if you think your personal information has been compromised:
- Contact the companies where you suspect fraud happened, such as your credit card company. They will help you close or freeze your accounts and open new ones if necessary.
- Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at
IdentityTheft.gov. You will receive an identity theft report and a recovery plan that tracks your progress.
- Consider calling one of the credit bureaus and asking them to place a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit report. If someone has stolen your identity, you can get a free credit report from all three bureaus.
- If you choose to, file a police report with local law enforcement.
Helping you prevent fraud during the holidays and all year round!
At Wright-Patt Credit Union, we believe it's more important than ever to help our members safeguard their hard-earned money and personal information. We have the tips, tools, and resources to help you protect your accounts and information against the threat of fraud. Learn more about fraud education and awareness and find more helpful fraud prevention tips and resources at WPCU.coop/StopFraud.