Preventing Holiday Shopping Identity Theft
As if you didn’t have enough to worry about this December, tried-and-true senior scams ramp up during the holidays, according to a 2015 blog post from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself — particularly as you work to cross everything off of your loved ones’ wish list. Here are some ways seniors can keep their identity safe while holiday shopping. Preventing Holiday Shopping Identity Theft
Never Trust, Always Verify
It’s a good idea to question any phone call you get from telemarketers this holiday shopping season — even if it seems to be associated with a legitimate product or company. Scammers are known to pose as well-known businesses in order to get unsuspecting consumers to turn over credit card numbers or, worse yet, personally identifiable information. If you receive an unsolicited phone call and are interested in whatever it is the person on the other end of the line is selling, hang up, look the company up online and then call them directly to verify the caller’s (and product’s) authenticity.
Note: The same goes for any phone calls you receive from the “IRS,” assorted charities or purported relatives in dire straits — all popular facades for scammers seeking personal or payment information for Christmas.
Think Before You Click
Be similarly wary of any unsolicited emails popping up in your inbox. Advertisements for major “get-it-now” sales or even a request from your bank to update your account information can really be phishing scams designed to glean your personal or payment information, sometimes as soon as you click. Preventing Holiday Shopping Identity Theft
Keep an Eye on Financial Accounts
The holidays put your credit cards front and center —particularly if you do a lot of shopping online. (That little EMV chip on your credit or debit card only makes it harder to skim your account information in stores.) That’s why it’s important to continually monitor your statements for fraud. And if you do spot suspicious activity, call your issuer right away to dispute the charges and have your card replaced.
Take Advantage of Your Bank’s Safety Features
Many banks let cardholders set up spending alerts that can make it easier to spot fraud. For instance, you can request a text message or email when a purchase over a certain amount is made with your credit or debit card. Some credit card issuers, including Capital One, Discover and Citi, let cardholders “freeze” or “lock” their accounts if a card temporarily goes missing. That way, no one can make charges while you’re trying to track down your card. It can be a good idea to call your issuer to find out what safety or security features are at your disposal this holiday shopping season.
Monitor Your Credit
If you have reason to believe a scammer successfully stole your personal information, it’s important to monitor your credit for signs of identity theft. You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
You can also consider taking out a credit freeze with the three major credit reporting agencies to prevent new accounts from being opened in your name. If you don’t want to completely freeze your credit (since that also prevents you from taking our new credit lines), you could alternately consider using identity theft protection to readily spot any changes to your credit reports.
Report Any Crime
Remember, if you do fall victim to a scam, it’s important to report the crime to your local authorities. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Police reports and FTC complaints can be instrumental in disputing any fraudulent information that appears on your credit reports or bank statements.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
Jeanine Skowronski is the managing editor at Credit.com. Her work has been featured by The Wall Street Journal, American Banker, TheStreet, Newsweek, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, MSN, Fox Business, Forbes, CNBC and various other online publications. Follow her at @JeanineSko
Preventing Holiday Shopping Identity Theft
About the Author
As Senior.com Director of Sales and Marketing, Kimberly Johnson is passionate about providing Seniors with the resources and products to live well. Kimberly is a seasoned caregiver to her family and breast cancer survivor. Her father battled ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease and she was a primary caregiver. Today Kimberly lives in Southern California near her 104-year-old grandmother, widowed mother, a mentally disabled sister and second sister who is also a breast cancer survivor. She is happily married to her husband of 24 years and they have 3 children.View All Articles