As the COVID-19 Pandemic forces people to make adjustments to their lives, online outlets are preparing for an increase in virtual holiday shopping this year. This presents identity thieves with increased opportunities to steal personal data, and AAA East Central recommends holiday shoppers be especially cautious and take steps to protect themselves this season.
“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, and shopping online can increase your chances of having your information stolen,” says Dan Flynn, manager of financial services, AAA East Central. “Shoppers should monitor their credit reports and sign up for credit monitoring services, like the free AAA ProtectMyID® program offered to members.”
The free AAA member benefit ProtectMyID® Essential provides basic credit monitoring of members’ Experian credit report. ProtectMyID® Deluxe offers daily monitoring of credit reports from all three major credit monitoring bureaus, social security number monitoring and $1 million in ID theft insurance. And ProtectMyID® Platinum provides the most comprehensive identity fraud protection, including the monitoring of your minor children’s social security numbers and social media monitoring.
To prevent theft of your credit card or other personal information over the holiday, AAA East Central Recommends:
- Don’t shop online on an unsecured wi-fi connection. Hackers may be able to steal that information, especially on public computers or on public Wi-Fi. Consider getting a personal hotspot if you use your phone frequently in public for financial transactions.
- Stick to familiar websites. Don’t use a new website to buy something before checking consumer reviews, and make sure it offers a secure web page for credit card transactions.
- Beware of fake gift cards. Buy gift cards directly from the retailer. When buying a card from a kiosk in a store, beware that scammers can tamper with cards and then put them back.
- Be wary of who you accept an e-card from. Cyber criminals can load e-card links or attachments with viruses and malware that download to your computer once you click on the e-card.
- Donate to legitimate charities. Never give in response to an email solicitation or phone call. Instead, identify a charity you want to support, research it thoroughly and make a donation securely, either through snail mail or the charity’s own secure website.
- When shopping at retail locations, don’t let your credit card out of sight. Make sure your purse or wallet is secure at all times. If using a debit card, protect your pin number from sight and consider purchasing an RFID blocking product.
- Keep your smartphone in a secure place at all times, and use a passcode lock feature if it has one. Thieves can access a trove of personal data by stealing an unsecured cell phone.