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Protect Your Identity This Holiday Season

With the holiday shopping season underway, most of us are busy scouring stores and firming up our wish lists. Unfortunately, thieves are using this time to come up with new methods to steal consumers’ personal details and, ultimately, their identities.

 

According to a 2016 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research, the total cost of identity fraud in 2015 was $15 billion, and more than 13 million consumers were impacted. With more purchases made during the holiday season than at any other time of the year, your finances — and sensitive personal information — are especially vulnerable. Here are seven ways you can protect yourself.

1. Watch out for phishing disguised as holiday deals

According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, cases of phishing emails disguised as ads and inquiries increased throughout 2015. Watch out for email ads that ask you to click on phony links or input personal information. Hover your mouse over links to see where they lead before clicking. If you ever doubt the integrity of an email, delete it.

2. Watch out for “porch pirates”

It’s important not to forget how thieves can get their hands on your personal data in the physical world. With packages hitting doorsteps more frequently this time of year, make sure your packages — and any personal information they might contain — don’t end up in the hands of thieves, often called porch pirates. To prevent package theft, consider using a delivery locker, or see if you can request delivery during a time when you are available to accept it in person.

3. Make sure your devices are protected from malware

Before you make a purchase online, make sure your security features and software are up-to-date and that your devices are clear of malware and spyware. Software updates often patch weak points that, left un-updated, may leave your systems vulnerable to intrusion. Meanwhile, security software can shield your devices from harmful viruses found on the web. Be mindful that as more transactions are executed on mobile devices, it’s important to exercise the same caution there that you would on a desktop or laptop computer.

4. Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi access

Shopping online while sipping a latte at your local coffee shop might sound enjoyable, but it could cost you. It’s fairly easy for scammers to steal your personal details on a public Wi-Fi connection, so refrain from entering passwords and payment information while using one. Rather, wait until you’re at home or shop on a secure internet connection. Virtual Private Networks (commonly referred to as VPNs), for instance, blind public networks to your activity.

5. Shop only on secure websites

The internet makes it possible to shop on what seems like an infinite number of online stores, but steer clear of making purchases on sites that aren’t secure. By shopping only on websites that start with “https” (as opposed to “http”), you can rest assured your private information and credit card details are safe. The “s” indicates that your computer’s communications with the website in use are encrypted.

6. Check your credit card and bank statements often

It’s crucial to not let anything slip by you. Take the time to evaluate your statements line by line and promptly report purchases you didn’t make. Better yet, use a credit card that offers zero fraud liability for an extra layer of protection. No charge is too small to scrutinize.

7. Purchase identity theft protection

According to Javelin’s 2016 report, as credit cards adopt EMV® (Europay, Mastercard®, and Visa®) technology that makes them more secure at point-of-sale, a rising share of fraud — 20% in 2015 — is occurring in the form of new-account creation. According to the Federal Trade Commission, purchasing a third-party identity theft protection service that monitors your credit profile for suspicious activity is one way to stay alert to fraudulent accounts opening in your name. If you choose to forgo identity theft protection, the FTC recommends a number of free and low-cost alternatives.

More information

There is nothing more important than protecting you and your information — whether you’re doing business with us online, by phone, or in one of our offices. To learn more about privacy, security, online fraud, and our Terms of Use, visit our cybersecurity page or call us at the phone number found on the back of your Citizens Bank credit or debit card.

 

If you do fall victim to identity theft this holiday season, visit IdentityTheft.gov to begin the reporting and recovery process, or Ask a Citizen at your nearest Citizens Bank Branch.

 

Disclaimer: Views expressed may not necessarily reflect those of Citizens Bank. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only as a service to the public, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel, nor does it constitute advertising or a solicitation. You should do your own research and/or contact your own legal or tax advisor for assistance with questions you may have on the information contained herein.

 

Mastercard® is a registered trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.