Christmas lights are twinkling, holiday music is starting to chime, peppermint mocha coffee is back—the holiday shopping season has officially begun! So, now would be a good time to talk about the potential for theft and what we can do to protect ourselves this season.
While we may think of holiday theft as the theft of physical packages only, our personal information and payment information can be even more valuable. In 2017, over 15 million Americans fell victim to some sort of identity theft. Aside from the horrible inconvenience and hours spent contacting credit bureaus, dealing with creditors, and attempting to correct your records, identity theft can cost you real dollars in the form of illegitimate bills and legal fees.
Your best chance at avoiding these wastes of time and money comes from taking measures to prevent others from stealing your information and property in the first place. While not an exhaustive list, here are a few good tips to help keep your identity safe this holiday shopping season.
Be a savvy online shopper
It can be slightly overwhelming to keep track of all of the sales, deals, coupons, and bargains that are floating around this time of year. Stick to your list and don't get too carried away with the holiday spirit and make impulsive purchases. If you originally budgeted to spend $100 on a gift for your child, resist the urge to go over that, even if you run across an unbeatable deal.
Paying with a credit card rather than a debit card or checking account gives you the most legal protection in case the goods or services are misrepresented or never delivered. Charges to debit cards come out of your checking account immediately. That means debit cards provide thieves with your banking information and actual funds are deducted from your account, possibly causing you problems paying legitimate bills.
Keep an eye out for your holiday packages
The days of online shopping and next-day delivery make holiday shopping easier. Unfortunately, theft is a major concern when it comes to having your packages delivered to your door. Thieves follow delivery trucks and grab the packages while you’re at work and no one is home. Not only do you lose your package, but this can lead to identity theft if the contents of the package contains personal information, account numbers, or a personal check from relatives. If you’re ordering gifts online this year, consider checking the option that will require a signature upon delivery or try to schedule deliveries on a day that you know you’ll be home.
Related Reading: 5 Tips for Thwarting Thieves this Holiday Season
Verify offers in email and social media
If a deal sounds too good to be true, it often is. While you may score some great and legitimate holiday shopping deals, you need to be very skeptical. Thieves will create deals that look like they're from trusted stores and legitimate websites. Before you enter any personal or payment information, perform these checks:
Hover your cursor over hyperlinks to verify that the link matches the address displayed on the page or email.
Go directly to the store website yourself to verify that the same deal exists on the store's site. If you don't see the same deal advertised on the official website, the offer may be fraudulent.
Check your credit reports
The end of the year is a good time to request and review your credit reports. Under federal law, you’re entitled to a free report from each of the credit bureaus once a year. Go over your reports carefully and inform the credit bureaus if there are any inaccuracies, irregularities, or signs of fraud.
Hopefully, this holiday season will be a safe and happy time for your household and family. By using these tips, you'll make it more difficult for thieves to access your information and property. The actions you take to proactively defend yourself may prevent a negative experience from ruining your holiday season.
Do you have any other tips or tricks to keep your property and information safe during the bustling holiday season? Share them with us in the comments below!