Part of the fun of holiday shopping is in making out lists of the “perfect” gift to give your loved ones, then browsing for just the right item. For some particularly savvy shoppers, establishing a Black Friday “game plan” means researching which stores are having the best sales, navigating the crowds of shoppers, and even tag-teaming with friends or relatives to whittle the shopping lists down in record time.
But now is the time to create a whole different kind of holiday shopping game plan, especially if you plan to dive into the frenzy of Black Friday specials: the identity theft prevention plan.
“Prevention” is a bit of a misleading word when it comes to identity theft and fraud because there are so many ways that cybercriminals can nab your data without your help. But there are also a lot of good habits you can develop that will minimize your risk, and the holidays are certainly no time to drop those habits and leave yourself vulnerable.
The Black Friday Game Plan to Minimize Identity Theft
1. Secure your identity – whether you plan to shop online or at the mall, your identity is always a part of you. That means making sure you do everything in your power to secure it. When you’re online, make sure you’re only shopping on secure websites that have an HTTPS designation at the front of the web address. If you’re out and about, make sure you’ve only carried the absolutely necessary documentation with you. Leave that Social Security card at home!
2. Watch out for your tech – No matter if you’re online or in a store, make sure your technology can’t leak your identity and let it fall into the wrong hands. Check to be sure that you’ve got strong antivirus and antimalware software installed on your computer, and that you’ve updated it recently. When you’re out shopping, make sure your smartphone is passcode protected and that you’ve logged out of any sensitive apps that could give a thief access to your accounts. Turn off your smartphone’s wifi while shopping, too, since it will keep you from accidentally connecting to an unsecured network and will save your battery life. If you need the wifi—such as to access a retailer’s coupon code from their website—you can turn it back on while standing in line.
3. Be aware of your surroundings – this advice has been shared over and over, but it doesn’t just apply to noticing a suspicious person as you walk to your car (although that’s always good advice). When you’re shopping online, be aware of what’s going on around you. Look to see what other devices might be connected to your wifi, and take note if you or your kids have people over. Don’t walk away from your computer while shopping online, as you could be leaving your accounts vulnerable. At the same time, take note when you’re out in public of anyone who’s watching you enter your account PIN at the register or gas pump, and make sure you’re covering up your phone’s screen whenever you enter a password.
Questions about identity theft? Connect with the ITRC through our toll-free call center at (888) 400-5530, or on-the-go with the new IDTheftHelp app for iOS and Android.