(WXYZ) — Whether you’re shopping in person or online, identity theft is something to be aware of. December is Identity Theft Protection Awareness Month and The Federal Trade Commission estimates that millions of Americans have their identities stolen each year.
“It can be overwhelming to find out someone has stolen your personal information,” said GreenPath president and CEO Kristen Holt, in a press release. “But know that you’re not alone. It’s important to act quickly and take immediate steps to mitigate damage and reduce your stress.”
GreenPath Financial Wellness, a national nonprofit, has a few tips to help decrease the chance of someone collecting your information this holiday season:
When shopping in-person:
- Carry only what you need. Keep the number of personal items you carry to a bare minimum. Use the rule of three: one credit card, your driver’s license or identity card, and a debit card.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Pick pocketers are always a concern while in public spaces. When you complete a transaction, make a concerted effort (doublecheck) to safely store your identification and/or credit cards in your wallet. If you are paying with a credit or debit card, keep the number concealed just in case someone behind you (though they should be at least six feet away) is watching.
- Check for “skimming” devices. One way identity thieves steal someone’s credentials is by attaching skimming devices to card readers or ATMs. These gadgets copy credit card information, which criminals can replicate the card and make unauthorized purchases.
When shopping online:
- Use trusted, secured websites. It’s important to look in the address field for URLs that begin with “HTTPS” or have icons that look like a lock when shopping online. Watch pop-up sites and “click-bait” ads that may not be secure.
- Use a credit card, not a debit card, when shopping. Leverage the fraud protections provided with most credit cards. Should you become a victim of fraud, it could take some time for the fraudulent activity on your debit card to be rectified, which could affect the funds you may need for day-to-day expenses.
- Decline offers to store your credit card information. Avoiding this step may also make it less easy for you to make impulse buys.
- Use PayPal, digital wallets (Apple Pay), or virtual cards instead of providing your credit card number. Digital wallets use an encryption system (Face ID) that replaces your card information with a one-time digital “token” when making a transaction.
- Monitor alerts and accounts regularly. Check for any transactions you did not make.
Visit www.greenpath.com for more information.