Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and it brings with it all of the usual trimmings. Stuffing and the cranberry sauce, to be sure, and also family visits, travel scams to avoid, the pitfalls of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping, and more.
There are many ways you can protect yourself from the risk of identity theft and fraud attempts during this time of year, but it can be more effective if you’ve planned ahead:
1. Holiday travel – Believe it or not, more U.S. adults travel at Thanksgiving than even Christmas, and scammers are well aware of this. It’s important to plan well in advance for your holiday travel—even if your plans unexpectedly change and you find yourself booking last minute trips or accommodations. Use only reputable sources of online reservations, and avoid the temptation of flashy sidebar ads and “too good to be true” deals.
2. Holiday shopping – Black Friday gets its name from the very fact that this single day of consumer activity can result in enough sales to put businesses “back in the black” for the entire year. That means consumers spend enough money on this single shopping day to make or break a business’ bottom line. Scammers and identity thieves are well aware of this, and they’re already making their preparations to ply their trade.
It’s important shoppers are prepared in order to avoid credit card theft, phony deals and other scams. Planning your shopping ahead by knowing which forms of payment you’ll use, and checking your account statements in the days afterward are important steps to keep criminals at bay.
3. Online options – Recent data has shown that more and more shoppers are heading online and avoiding the crowds, not just on Cyber Monday, but all during the Thanksgiving weekend. This opens up a whole new world of threats, such as hacking, installing malicious software, falling for a shopping scam or phishing attempt, and more. It’s important that your anti-virus software is up-to-date and that you limit your internet shopping to trustworthy sites with a HTTPS designation. Having one specific credit card that you use for your online purchases can minimize the likelihood that someone can hack multiple accounts, and also give you only one source to monitor in the coming weeks.
Taking proactive steps before, during and after the holiday season is just one step you can take to help protect your personal information and ultimately your identity.
Eva Velasquez is president and CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center, sponsored by CyberScout.