It’s prime shopfriends-holidaybping season … for you, and identity thieves. 

A busy holiday season brings forth a variety of identity theft risks that if you’re not cautious, may just catch you off-guard.

Fraudsters are gearing up for their own holiday-of-sorts by baiting unknowing shoppers, and the businesses they frequent, into their fraudulent schemes.  Be smart about the way you make your holiday purchases. Go into the season assuming fraudsters lie in wait for access to your personal information. Here are few simple tips to keep in mind:

  • Be aware of “phishing” emails, including those claiming to be from your favorite retailers and charities. Do not click on any links within emails from individuals or companies you do not recognize. And for those you do recognize; look closely at their email addresses and the website urls that are linked within the email. Ensure it’s the retailer or charity you know and love. Some emails, links and web pages look eerily similar to your favorites.

    Special deal! 6 hours only! Watch out for special deals that appear to be too good to be true. Unheard of pricing discounts, free services and gift cards all sound great … until you realize you’ve just been scammed.

  • Use one credit card for all holiday purchases. And check the transaction activity regularly. It’s easiest to track purchases and monitor activity occurring in your name when using just one card for all purchases. Make it a credit card – your credit card carries greater fraud protections and won’t deplete your savings or checking account should your account be compromised.

    When monitoring your credit card activity, it’s not just big ticket purchases to look out for. Hackers will test card numbers by charging small dollar amounts—$1 or $2 increments—on an account first.  Once the validity of the account is confirmed, fraudsters may then sell your information, or reward themselves with their own holiday shopping spree, compliments of you.

  • Browse the internet, securely! Public Wi-Fi can be easily hacked and has the potential to expose your passwords and other personal information. You’ll want to reserve public Wi-Fi use for comparison shopping; then make your purchases once on a secure internet connection. Additionally, ensure the retailer you are purchasing from is collecting payment information securely—look for the “https” in the web address. The important thing to remember, an “s” in “https” means security!

There’s little doubt we will see more retailer data breaches this holiday shopping season, as well as increases in phishing and other fraudulent schemes, all are geared towards capturing your personal information and leading you down the path to becoming their next victim. Remember these simple tips this holiday season and all year long to help ensure your financial future is secure.