How to protect yourself from identity theft this holiday season


(WXYZ) – Whether you’re shopping in person or online, identity theft is something to be aware of. December is Identity Theft Protection Awareness Month, and the Federal Trade Commission estimates that millions of Americans have their identities stolen every year.

“It can be overwhelming to find out that someone has stolen your personal information,” GreenPath President and CEO Kristen Holt said in a press release. “But know that you are not alone. It’s important to act quickly and take immediate action to lessen the damage and reduce your stress.

GreenPath Financial Wellness, a national nonprofit, offers some tips to help reduce the chances of someone collecting your information during the holiday season:

When you shop in person:

  • Take only what you need. Limit the number of personal items you carry to the absolute minimum. Use the rule of three: a credit card, your driver’s license or ID card, and a debit card.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Pickpockets are always a concern in public spaces. When you complete a transaction, make a concerted effort (double check) to securely store your ID and / or credit cards in your wallet. If you are paying with a credit or debit card, keep the number hidden just in case someone behind you (although they must be at least six feet away) is watching.
  • Check for “skimming” devices. Identity thieves steal someone’s credentials by attaching skimmers to card readers or ATMs. These gadgets copy credit card information, which criminals can duplicate the card and make unauthorized purchases.

When shopping online:

  • Use reliable and secure websites. It is important to look for URLs in the address field that begin with “HTTPS” or have icons that look like a padlock when shopping online. Watch pop-up sites and “click-bait” ads that may not be secure.
  • Use a credit card, not a debit card, when shopping. Take advantage of the fraud protections that come with most credit cards. If you are a victim of fraud, it may take some time to correct the fraudulent activity on your debit card, which could affect the funds you may need for your daily expenses.
  • Decline offers to store your credit card information. Avoiding this step can also make impulse buying less easy.
  • Use PayPal, digital wallets (Apple Pay) or virtual cards instead of providing your credit card number. Digital wallets use an encryption system (Face ID) that replaces your card information with a unique digital “token” during a transaction.
  • Monitor alerts and accounts regularly. Check the transactions you haven’t done.

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