It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But it’s also prime time for identity thieves trying to take advantage of seasonal habits that create more risk such as increased shopping and travel. Last year, fraud attempts spiked 22% during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

Your identity is a gift that you don’t have to give away. Here are 10 tips to keep this holiday season merry, bright, and more secure.

Cash and Credit are Best. Use cash where possible when shopping in person and use credit cards when shopping online. Each has less risk than a debit card, which can provide access to your bank account if compromised and can take longer to resolve if you dispute transactions.

Avoid the Skim. Devices known as “skimmers” attached to ATMs, gas pumps, and even some retail swipe pads can capture your credit card information. These machines can work remotely and be quite small, making them almost indistinguishable. Take a close look for anything that looks out of the ordinary, like a card reader sitting unusually on a machine, sticky residue, or broken tape. If it looks suspicious, find an alternative.

Give Wisely. Generosity is a hallmark of the season. Beware of scams that prey on your kindness. Never make a donation over the phone and be sure to validate your selected organization or charity on a trusted website like CharityNavigator.

Take a Pass on Credit Card Offers. In addition to having higher-than-usual interest rates, many applications require you to list your Social Security number which can be stolen and used to take out loans, open other credit cards, and more – all in your name – leaving you to foot the bill. If they go unnoticed and unpaid, it can severely impact your credit rating.

Check Your Statements. Noticing suspicious activity early and taking action quickly can reduce the risk of further fraud. Review your statements closely for anything unusual and report it quickly. In some cases, if one financial account has been compromised, it might mean that others have been as well. If you receive printed statements, shred them afterward in order to be extra safe.

Protect Your Home. While the jury’s still out if burglaries spike during the holidays, chances are your home might be left unattended for travel or filled with more high-priced goods than usual. Password protect your technology where possible and keep secure documents locked away.

Use Secure Connections. If you’re out shopping or traveling to see loved ones, avoid transmitting sensitive information or making purchases over public Wi-Fi or other unsecured internet connections. Save these transactions for home or use your smartphone’s data plan.

Leave the Bags to Santa. Shopping malls and holiday markets are bustling this time of year. Leave purses and bags at home to avoid theft of your credit cards and personal identification. Slide only what you need – an ID, cash, and a credit card – into your front pocket for extra security.

Shop Smart. Identity thieves prey on shoppers looking for a good deal and may send emails directing you to phony websites designed to capture your payment information. Make sure that the website has proper security, designated with an https:// at the beginning of the URL.

Give Yourself the Gift of Identity Monitoring. A more secure identity can provide peace of mind during a hectic month. Proactive identity monitoring like WBT ID Protection does the hard work for you, searching for your personal data in the locations where identity thieves buy, sell, and trade stolen information. You’ll receive an alert and can take action with the assistance of a trained professional.

 

Don’t let identity thieves ruin the festivities.

Take the proper precautions and sign up for Wilson Bank’s Identity Protection Program today.

Have another thought, tip or suggestion? Leave it in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!

Posted by Elvis Huff

Elvis Huff worked as an officer and network administrator for 12 years with the Lebanon Police Department and has also served as an adjunct professor in information systems at Cumberland University. Read More »

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