While the holiday season brings bigger opportunity for would be hackers given the increased amount of online transactions with credit cards, consumers should be vigilant all year round. While some homeowners and renters policies offer a basic level of identity theft indemnification, it is still in shoppers’ best interest to proactively protect their identity and credit cards while shopping. One way to plan a defense is to understand exactly what would-be identity thefts do with your information.
There are several ways thefts can use your information that is detrimental to the actual identity owner. After they obtain information that can be used to open accounts, they will do so, but then they will default on payments, which wreaks havoc on the credit of person whose name was used to open the account. They may also do the traditional activity of obtaining credit card information and make purchases to the card for which they will not make the payment.
So how do would-be thefts obtain the personal information they need to facilitate their criminal activity? There are several activities that all consumers should be vigilant in detecting. First and foremost, phishing is an activity that people will fall victim too this holiday season. There have been government officials who have fallen for phishing scams- and in the process were duped out of tens of thousands of tax payer’s money. Phishing is the sending of fraudulent emails, that were made to look legitimate, but when the links are clicked, take you to a fraudulent site. When you enter your purchase information onto this fake site, you essentially gave your credit card number to scammers. To avoid this, don’t click links in a marketing email, even if you are familiar with the store. Instead, open a new window on your browser and navigate to the website yourself. Look for a padlock next to the website name in the address to confirm the site is secure.
Another scam criminals conduct is what is known as “credit card skimming.” This is something that happens all year round, but be no less vigilant in detecting it during the holidays. Scammers attach a skimmer over ATM machines and point of sale machines to steal credit card information while a purchase is being made. Before you insert your card into any machine, check to see that the outer surface of where you insert the card isn’t surrounded by a small box like apparatus. If you are even remotely suspicious, don’t use the machine!
Finally, shoppers must protect themselves when shopping online. A major security risk is conducting transactions on an unsecured network, specifically public wifi. Anyone with a talent for it can hack into the public wifi network and take information they want, including credit card numbers from transactions made on the network. In this scenario, a consumer’s best bet is to shop for the products on their phone by adding items to their cart, but don’t actually transact until you are home on your secured wifi or web connection.
The modern consumer has a lot on their plate, so remaining vigilant over their identity can sometime fall to the wayside. The good news is there are many services one can use to monitor their credit or step up the security on their cell phones and computers. Even after taking all preventative measures, shoppers can take the next step and either ascertain they are covered for identity theft through their homeowners or renters insurance, and if they aren’t they can look into endorsing their current policy or adding a stand alone identity theft policy. Not all carriers handle this insurance product the same way and your best bet would be to contact Beckerman & Co to talk to a knowledgeable personal lines insurance agent.