December 2014: Identity Theft this Holiday Season

Consumers lost $1.6 billion to fraud in 2013. The high profile information security breaches at JP Morgan Chase and Sony are just the latest in the disturbing trend. As we enter the holiday season, you should be vigilant and look out for common traps that identity thieves set up for unsuspecting shoppers.

  • Be on the lookout for fake ads and deals - Offers that are too good to be true, usually are. Hackers will often create copies of legitimate web sites to lure potential victims. Look at the web address closely to make sure you are buying from reputable companies.
  • Watch out for strange looking point of sale machines - "Skimmers" are devices that can be added to a real point of sale system that will attempt to steal credit card information. Never use a point of sale system that looks like it has been tampered with, or has had unusual additions to it.
  • Always shop at secure websites - If you are shopping online, never enter your personal information without checking to see that the site is secure. You will notice in some web browsers a padlock icon is present and the URL will start with https:// instead of http://
  • Use credit cards instead of debit cards - Credit cards have legal protection against fraudulent purchases. Use these when possible to protect yourself.
  • Be wary of phone apps from unknown makers - Making purchases via an app, or entering in personal information to set up service should only be attempted from trusted applications. A good practice is to check the permissions that an app is asking to use. An app that functions as a flashlight should not need access to your GPS. It is best to remove apps that require permissions that are suspicious.
  • Check your credit report annually - The best time to review your credit might be just after the holidays to check for any unusual activity. Under federal law, everyone is entitled to a free credit report every 12 months.

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