The threat is present year-round, but statistics show that the hectic holiday season is prime time for identity theft. Don’t let criminals ruin your holiday cheer—take the time to exercise caution when shopping and traveling.
Be protective of your new EMV chip cards
Scammers are already taking advantage of the changeover to EMV cards (in which a computer chip is embedded) by emailing consumers, under the alias of the card issuer, and claiming that consumers need to confirm personal information or click on a link in order to be issued a new chip card. Your card issuer does not need to contact you by email or phone prior to sending your new chip card.
Be wary of third-party emails
Identity thieves often send viruses and malware via e-greeting cards, bogus shipping notifications and fake sales alerts. Never click on links or attachments in these suspicious-looking emails. Go directly to the greeting card company’s site and enter the card number included in the email; only use tracking numbers provided in the original shipping confirmation you receive after making your purchase; and be sure to shop with reputable retailers using only their official websites.
The extra “s” = security
When making online purchases, remember that a website is secure only if the URL begins with https (“s” for secure). Do not provide your payment information if you do not see the “s.” Also, if you’re using Chrome as your browser, and see the https of an online retailer’s URL crossed out in red with a padlock next to it, do not provide your payment information as this indicates there is a problem with that retailer’s security. Clicking on the padlock will provide more details about the website’s security issues.
Regularly update software on mobile devices
In addition to updating software on your smartphones and tablets, take advantage of the capability of mobile devices to encrypt as well as remotely wipe the contents of your device if it is stolen or lost.
Beware of skimmers
Skimmers are devices hackers fit over card readers to obtain information from the magnetic stripe on your credit cards. Skimmers can be difficult to spot; look for an extra cover on the swipe device that may be ill-fitting or not a matching color. They may be found on ATMs and other payment terminals, such as gas pumps.
Keep to secure Wi-Fi
Be thoughtful about what you access on public Wi-Fi. Identity thieves target public Wi-Fi by cloning log-in web pages for coffee shops, airports, hotels, etc. Once you are using a hacker's Wi-Fi, they have access to everything you send over the web, including usernames, passwords, texts and photos. If you use your smartphone or tablet to pay bills or shop online, use only a Wi-Fi connection that you know to be secure, such as your home or office.
Use (and frequently update) passcodes
Set strong passwords that combine upper- and lowercase letters, symbols and non-sequential numbers. Never use your name, your child's name or your pet's name as part of your password. Change your passwords at least four times a year and use a variety of passwords instead of the same one for every account. Consider using a password manager—reviews of the best ones for your needs are easily available. Protect your mobile device with a passcode or biometric protection (e.g., fingerprint).
If you suspect that your identity has been compromised, act quickly and contact your financial advisor for notification and assistance.