As the threat of identity theft grows each year, helping safeguard your identity during the holiday season becomes more of a necessity. But does identity theft increase during the holidays?
Unfortunately, yes, identity theft does increase during the holiday season. During the holidays, people are more likely to travel, shop online, use public Wi-Fi, and be exposed to large, hectic crowds. Without the proper precautions, situations like these are ripe with opportunities for identity thieves to take advantage of those celebrating the holidays. This is why the holidays present a perfect storm of factors that make individuals more susceptible to identity theft.
Factors Contributing to Increased Identity Theft During Holidays
The convenience of digital platforms has led to the rise of online shopping during this time of year. However, while online shopping offers the convenience of shopping from your couch, it also poses the increasing danger of data breaches and phishing attacks. In fact, a recent study shows 43% of consumers who fell victim to identity theft last year reported that it happened while shopping for the holidays online.
The appeal of exclusive deals and limited-time offers can sometimes distract from the lurking threats of identity theft. As you search for the perfect gifts online, it’s crucial to remain vigilant and use safe online shopping habits. Be aware of the risks that come with providing personal information online, check your bank account regularly, and ensure your online transactions are secure.
Traveling is an exciting part of the holiday season. Many people travel during the holidays to spend time with their loved ones or to enjoy the weather in an exciting new place. But the fun of holiday travel can be quickly disrupted by identity thieves looking to exploit vulnerable travelers.
Travelers are more vulnerable to identity theft during the holidays for many reasons. Travelers are also more likely to carry valuable items like cash, credit cards, and passports, and busy and unfamiliar environments can make travelers less aware of their surroundings. This opens the door for physical identity theft ploys like pickpocketing or shoulder surfing.
There’s a wide range of what an identity thief can do with your credit card, passport, or driver’s license. They can open new credit cards in your name, make fraudulent purchases, lock you out of your personal accounts, and more. This is why being aware of your surroundings while traveling is always important, especially during the holidays.
Similar to traveling, the hustle and bustle of holiday crowds can also leave shoppers more prone to security oversights, creating a perfect hunting ground for identity thieves. Thieves often take advantage of these situations to pickpocket wallets or gather information through credit card scanning devices. Shoppers should always beware of pick pocketers, shoulder surfers, skimming devices, and more. Stay alert, be mindful of your surroundings, and avoid distractions while handling sensitive information.
The convenience of public Wi-Fi can be a double-edged sword. Whether you use it to stay connected while you’re out holiday shopping or to do your holiday shopping online while on the go, public Wi-Fi can expose you to significant risks. Hackers can intercept sensitive information transmitted through unsecured public networks, potentially gaining access to your personal and financial data. Avoid accessing sensitive accounts or making online purchases using public Wi-Fi. If possible, wait to submit your payment information until you can access a secured private network or use a virtual private network (VPN) for an extra layer of security.
How to Help Protect Yourself from Identity Theft During the Holidays
Secure Online Shopping
When shopping for the holidays, it’s best to stick to have secure online shopping practices, including using reputable websites you’re familiar with and avoid any websites you’ve never heard of with deals that seem too good to be true. Always ensure that the websites you use for online shopping have SSL encryption. You can do this by looking for “https://” in the URL or a padlock symbol to the left of the URL. These both indicate a secure connection and offer an extra layer of protection against identity theft.
Safe Travel Practices
If your holiday plans involve travel, take extra precautions to secure your identity and belongings. Keep your travel documents, such as passports and boarding passes, in a secure and easily accessible location. Consider investing in RFID-blocking wallets and passport holders. These accessories help protect your sensitive information from electronic pickpocketing, a common tactic used by identity thieves.
It’s also important to inform your credit card companies and banks about your travel plans so they can be aware of legitimate transactions.
Stay Alert in Crowds
Whether navigating bustling shopping centers or attending crowded holiday events, staying vigilant is key. Always make an effort to be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to the people around you, and be cautious of anyone acting suspiciously. Stay focused on securing your belongings, especially in crowded places.
It’s also important to be aware of your personal belongings and to have a safe place to store them. Consider using a cross-body bag or pockets with a zipper to make pickpocketing more difficult. Regularly check your purse or pockets to ensure all your items are accounted for.
Use Public Wi-Fi Safely
Avoid conducting financial transactions or accessing sensitive accounts when connected to public Wi-Fi networks. It’s best to save those activities for secure, private networks. And if you can’t avoid using public Wi-Fi, consider using a VPN to encrypt your internet connection. This adds an extra layer of security, making it harder for hackers to intercept your data.
General internet safety best practices are even more critical when browsing on public Wi-Fi networks. Use robust passwords for your accounts, combining letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using easily guessable information, such as your birthdate or name. Add an extra layer of security by enabling two-factor authentication wherever possible. This additional safety net helps protect your account even if your password is compromised.
Invest in Identity Theft Protection
You can proactively fortify your identity by investing in identity theft protection services. IdentityIQ identity theft services monitor your credit and your personal information across the internet and dark web. If IdentityIQ detects possible suspicious activity, you receive an alert in real-time, allowing you to act immediately against potential identity theft threats. With constant monitoring, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your personal information is private and protected.
While the holiday season brings joy, it also demands a heightened awareness of the lurking threats of identity theft. With increased risks associated with online shopping, travel, crowded places, and public Wi-Fi, helping safeguard your personal information is critical. Consider investing in IdentityIQ identity theft protection services to offer yourself top-of-the-line protection. This proactive measure, paired with general best practices, creates a robust shield against threats. As you enjoy the holidays, stay vigilant and enjoy the holidays in peace, knowing that you’ve taken the necessary steps to help protect your identity.