Identity theft is a problem that happens year round and consumers need to be on guard because one mistake can cause them a lot of headaches and lost money as well as wasted time. But the holiday season gives this financial threat a little more teeth because people are purchasing left and right and often in haste. It is a very busy month for a lot of people because there are numerous gifts to be bought and get togethers to be organized all while preparing for the multiple year end reports and year end status updates in the office.
All these and a lot more makes this month one of the busiest in the year and with everything in rush, the margin for error increases especially when making financial transactions. You might be in a hurry to buy those gifts for the kids or pick out some tokens for your officemates that you miss out on some lapses in your buying behaviour.
You then become a target for identity fraud because scrupulous individuals are always on the look out for the easiest prey. They are looking for those who are not paying too much attention on what they are doing and in the process. making mistakes as they go along. They capitalize on these mental lapses and take advantage of people.
Statisticbrain.com shared that in any given year, the average number of people who are falling into identity theft is at a staggering 12 million people. This might be a just about 4% of the total population of the country which is at about 300 million but these are mere numbers, these are people whose lives have been ruined by thieves.
Identity theft during holiday shopping
As more and more people are shopping for the Christmas season, here are a few things you need to keep an eye out for to help lower the chances of falling victim to identity and financial theft.
- Use secure websites. Technology has paved the way for convenient shopping which can be done with a laptop or a smartphone and an internet connection. You can choose from a wide variety of clothes, gadgets and even appliances for the house with a few swipes on your smartphone or keyeing in a few search filters on your laptop. Payment is also a breeze because you just input your card number and then your are set. This is where troubles start to pop up because online money transactions are usual targets for crooks. Be sure that you are making payments on a secure site and that you are transacting with a legitimate online store.
- Have copies of purchase confirmation. People still make mistakes and you might experience this even with online transactions. One way to solve this is to be proactive and take screenshots of your payment confirmation notice. There are also often emails sent to you just to confirm that they received your payment. Be sure to keep these notices until such time your purchases clear out or if you need anything for tax purposes.
- Be aware of where your cards are being swiped. If you went to a physical store to buy gifts and presents and pay with your credit card, the person behind the machine would have to swipe it to complete the transaction. You need to be aware of where your cards are being swiped and always have an idea where your card is. Just as there are pefect place to pay with credit cards, there are also places that crooks frequent to get your card details. They might take advantage of you sitting down on your chair and losing sight of your card for just a few seconds. It is best if establishments bring the terminal over to your table so your card doesn’t leave your side.
- Check your credit report before the year ends. You should make it a habit to check your credit report to check if there are any questionable purchases and to guard yourself from identity theft. Check your credit report and be sure to have some documents like receipts and purchase confirmations to be able to double check your report. You can pay for it but you can get it for free. According to FTC.gov, a consumer is eligible for a free copy of their credit report from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax once every year which is covered under the The Fair Credit Reporting Act. You can choose to get one every four months so you can cover 12 months in total.
When you get way in over your head
Christmas shopping can take its toll on anybody and when you find yourself neck deep in debt, here are a few things you can look into to get you out fast.
- Stop. This should be on top of mind when you know that are already heading down debt hole. It looks like a very simple instruction but is actually one of the hardest things to do. You need to take a step back and relax to prevent getting in more deep. Stop whatever you are buying and slowly walk away to give yourself the chance to think things over.
- Reassess your purchases. Apart from helping you prevent identity theft, looking at your purchases will also get you to realize that you are already making a mistake. It could show how your expenses are more on your wants rather than your needs. Worse is if you are starting to rationalize frivolous expenses thinking it is something you need to fit into society, Look at what you have been buying all these time and see how you can improve with your choices.
- Return items you bought on impulse. There are times when you immediately regret your purchase and you might be able to return the item back according Consumer.FTC.gov. If you cannot return the item, you can try to sell them as fast as you can so you can recoup as much as you can. This is because you depreciation can take its toll on the item and the longer you wait it out, the lower you can resell it.
- Have a repayment plan. You need to look at what you have already accumulated and bring yourself to a decision to start making repayment on them. One of them is debt consolidation where you combine, if not most of your debt obligations under one account. This makes it easier for you to meet your payments because you no longer have to attend to a lot of small ones. You only have to remember one set of details such as payment amount, due date and more importantly, the interest rate.
Identity theft is a serious financial problem and one that should not be taken lightly. There are a lot of victims that doesn’t even know that their identity has already been compromised. They only get to find out once the damage has been done and crooks have already siphoned out hundreds of dollars into their name under the unsuspecting victims financial details. You need to be proactive in monitoring your finances to catch these criminal activities and prevent them from doing damage in your finances. It would also help to be a little more proactive in understanding how crooks would take advantage of you especially during this holiday rush.