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Lessons and stories from the front lines of fighting identity theft.


Six Holiday Risks to Watch Out For

Nov 28


We all overindulge a little during the holidays, whether it’s eating too much rich food or spending more than we budgeted for holiday gift-shopping. But security is one thing you just can’t overdo during the holidays. Scammers and identity thieves find inventive ways to take advantage of our good spirits and open wallets during the season.

Watch out for these six ways in which crooks can take the twinkle out of your holiday season:

1. Gift card shenanigans – In 2012, more than 81 percent of holiday shoppers said they planned to purchase a gift card. Beware of fake gift cards offered through websites or third parties. Buy gift cards directly from the retailer. When buying a card from a kiosk in a store, ask the clerk to check the card and activate it before you buy. Scammers have been known to tamper with cards and then put them back on shelves.

2. Not-so-friendly greetings – E-cards have become a popular way to send season’s greetings, but be wary of who you accept an e-card from. Cyber criminals can load e-card links or attachments with viruses and malware that download to your computer once you click on the e-card.

3. Uncharitable taking – The holidays inspire generosity. Just be sure the charity you’re donating to is legit. Never give in response to an email solicitation or phone call. Instead, identify a charity you want to support, research it thoroughly and make a donation securely, either through snail mail or the charity’s own secure website.

4. Shopping insecurity – Whether you’re shopping online or in a store, make sure that you don’t give crooks any opportunities. Only use password-secured networks for online shopping and pay by credit card. Buy only from reputable websites with confirmable security measures in place. In stores, protect your identity by leaving ID you don’t need – such as passports, Social Security cards and extra credit cards – at home. Never let your credit card out of your sight when a clerk is swiping it, and be aware of shoulder-surfers who may take a peek at your PIN number when you type it to use a debit card.

5. Downloadable dangers – Apps can make holiday shopping and product research a breeze, but be careful about what you download onto your mobile device. Check the source of the app and user reviews, and read the privacy policy before downloading any app – especially if it’s free.

6. Home security – Burglars know people are away from home, traveling or shopping, during the holidays, so take steps to secure your house when you’re out. Always lock doors and windows and set security alarms. If you’ll be away overnight, put lights on a timer. Planning to be away for a few days? In addition to timing the lights, suspend newspaper and mail delivery, and never post on social media where you are.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from, Inc.  © 2013, Inc.  All rights reserved.

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