We have a lot on our minds over the holidays. Did we get gifts for everyone on our list? Whose family will we visit this year? Unfortunately, one thing we often don’t think about is how we can protect our privacy and identity. But, in today’s new reality, we must always be vigilant in protecting what matters most — especially this time of year.
Let’s look at a few ways we can stay safe while traveling and shopping this holiday season.
Ways to protect your identity while traveling
Stay clear of social
It’s a good rule of thumb not to announce your travel plans on any social media platform. Even if you utilize privacy settings on your posts, a thief could learn of your schedule and target your home in your absence. You can still post those photos of your family building a snowman, just wait until you get home. This way, your computer will be around when you get back.
Don’t let packages and newspapers pile up
Thieves know what to look for when picking targets, and nothing says “we’re not home right now” like a stack of newspapers on your front lawn or ten boxes by your door. If possible, have a trusted friend or neighbor collect your newspapers and packages while you’re away. If you don’t feel safe doing this, consider temporarily stopping the delivery of your newspaper until you return. You can also place your mail on a postal hold.
Alert your bank and credit card issuers that you will be traveling
Let your bank and credit card issuers know that you will be traveling before your trip. In addition to preventing your cards from being declined, it also helps your bank and credit card companies be alert for fraudulent activity.
Clean up your purse or wallet
The holiday season can provide an excellent opportunity to clean out your wallet or purse. Are you lugging around material with personally-identifiable information on it, like an old bill? Shred it! Is that your Social Security card behind your Costco membership? Take it out and leave it in a safe place of your home.
It’s also a good idea to only carry around as many checks or credit cards as you might need to use that day. If a thief does get his hands on your purse or wallet, you’re not losing an entire book of checks and every credit card you own.
For even more tips on protecting your identity while traveling, check out the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Travel Tips for the Business or Vacation Traveler.
Ways to protect your identity while shopping
Never shop online from a public place
Sure, that coffee shop by your house may have the world’s best frappe, but chances are they don’t have the world’s best Wifi security. Wait until you are home or at a secure location before making any online purchases.
Always look behind you for shoulder surfers
Whether you’re entering sensitive data in your computer or using an ATM, always look behind you for shoulder surfers — crooks who are looking over your shoulder to steal your personal data. This low-tech method is incredibly efficient at obtaining passwords, PINs, and other information thieves can use to take your money or identity.
Use your credit card
Whether you’re shopping online or in a brick and mortar retailer, you should always try to use your credit card in place of your debit card or checks. You might still be at risk for fraud, but if identity thieves steal your credit card, they won’t be able to wipe out your entire life savings.
Also, the recovery process is far easier with credit cards, and users can more easily contest unauthorized purchases, damaged items, and purchases that are lost during shipping, due to the Fair Credit Billing Act.
Monitor your statements even more frequently
You should always monitor your financial statements frequently, but pay even closer attention over the holidays. Identity thieves know you’ll likely be making far more purchases and will try to use that to your advantage. Instead of waiting for the paper bill to arrive, check online often for any irregularities.
For more tips on how to protect yourself when you shop online, check out our article on Cyber Monday. It’s loaded with great information you can use throughout the year. And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can protect yourself from cybercriminals during this holiday season and beyond, check out our complimentary ebook, Phishing for Dollars: How Identity Theft Is Leaving Businesses and Their Employees on the Hook.