How to Avoid Fraud and Identity Theft this Season
The holidays mean more shopping and more retail fraud. Last year, overall fraud rose 13 percent during the winter holidays and among digital goods, such as gaming, e-books, gift cards, music and software, fraud rose 167 percent. Purchases of electronics or food are also areas of particular vulnerability. So how do you stay alert and avoid becoming the victim of fraud or identity theft?
Check account statements daily.
Even if you’re not in the habit of frequent account checks, it pays to be extra attentive to your balances during the holidays.
Make sure it’s really your bank calling.
Often fraudsters will call and pretend to be with your bank, to try and get account info. Don’t give out your full social or account numbers over the phone, and if something seems off, call your bank and ask if they just called you. And never click on links in emails from financial institutions.
In fact, don’t click on emailed links at all.
Even if the email claims to be from a store where you shop regularly, go directly to the webpage and look for the deal, rather than clicking on a link embedded in an email. If an email claims a package wasn’t delivered, go through the store’s customer service department rather than clicking on a direct link. “Undelivered packages” are often code for “scam.”
Lock your devices with strong passwords and touch sensitivity.
If your phone, tablet or computer is stolen or lost, it will be harder to hack. Use strong passwords and don’t recycle or reuse passwords. Change passwords regularly. (It gets old, we know. But it’s probably less of a hassle than canceling all your cards and automatic billings if your identity gets stolen.)
Be careful with holiday e-cards.
Look for a confirmation code and open the card at the site of the card’s creator. If you don’t recognize the sender’s name, just don’t open it.
Shop with credit cards.
They offer more protection than debit cards.
Don’t enter card numbers over public wifi.
Your keystrokes could be tracked, and your personal info could end up for sale on the dark web.
Shop at sites with browsers that say “https” rather than “http.”
The “s” stands for secure, and the page will have a little lock on the left-hand side of the browser.
Check gift cards before redeeming, to make sure the activation code doesn’t appear altered.
Tug on gas pump and ATM card readers before using them, to make sure there isn’t a skimmer.
Keep your wallet out of reach.
An interior coat pocket is a safe bet.
Shred receipts, envelopes, pre-approved credit offers, catalogues with addresses, etc.
If you do become the victim of fraud, report your experience to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. This may help law enforcement catch the culprit and protect other Colorado citizens. It may even keep you from being re-victimized in the future.
And if you want added protection against identity theft, contact a Colorado Farm Bureau agent today. Identity theft protection can often be added to homeowner or renter insurance policies or it can be a stand-alone policy.