Protecting your finances and identity is a year-round endeavor, and you should always be diligent to guard yourself against identity theft. But identity theft and fraud are especially prevalent during the holiday season. According to credit bureau Experian, fraud attempts spike during the holidays, especially on Thanksgiving and the days leading up to Christmas.
What makes the holiday season so attractive to criminals? Here are four reasons identity theft is a major threat during the holiday season.
1. Increased Online Shopping Activity
Online shopping comes with many benefits. It’s easy, convenient, and you don’t have to brave the crowds. But shopping online comes with some risk, especially during the holidays; Experian reports that 43% of consumers who had their identity stolen say it occurred while shopping online during the holiday season.
Criminals will look to take advantage of increased online consumer activity and will try to steal shoppers’ payment data and personal information. Online businesses may experience data breaches that leave consumer information exposed. Thieves may also try to trick shoppers into following fraudulent email links and handing over private information.
When shopping online, make sure to verify that the websites you’re visiting are legitimate, and look for the secure padlock icon in your internet browser. Be wary of email links and never share your information with an unsecure website.
2. Busy Shopping Centers
Crowded and busy shopping areas provide criminals with plenty of targets and opportunities for distraction. Distracted consumers are potential goldmines for thieves who want access to your wallet, checkbook, credit cards, and identifying information.
When you’re juggling multiple shopping bags and pulling out your wallet in stores, you run the risk of losing your wallet or having it stolen. Pickpockets and thieves can then use your credit cards to make purchases or use personal information to commit identity theft. Make sure to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings as you shop.
3. Public Wi-Fi Networks
Often, shopping centers and retail stores provide free public Wi-Fi as a courtesy to their guests. But unsecured Wi-Fi networks can be hacked and used to steal any information you send or download while connected. It’s generally a good idea to avoid sending or receiving any sensitive information via a public Wi-Fi network.
4. Increased Holiday Travel
People travel much more frequently during the holidays; a record 30.6 million passengers traveled on airlines this past Thanksgiving alone. But traveling leaves your home vulnerable to break-ins; thieves may try to steal your property and information that can be used to commit identity theft. Plus, you run the risk of getting scammed or losing your wallet as you hustle to your destination. Make sure to stay vigilant as you travel for the holidays and take steps to secure your home before you leave.