Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
As the holiday season approaches this year, you might be feeling a bit wary of using your credit or debit card at certain retailers who have had data breaches in the past. You’re not alone. In fact, the majority of Americans (75 percent) say they are at least somewhat, if not very, concerned about the potential of a similar occurrence.
The main reason to be concerned about a data breach of your financial information is the threat of identity theft. If a hacker manages to break into a database with customer information, there’s a chance yours could be stolen and sold on the dark web.
It can seem as though we’re all helpless against holiday season identity theft, but you can arm yourself with knowledge and tools to help reduce your risk.
Are You at More Risk of Identity Theft Than Others?
There are a few factors that could put you at a higher risk of having your identity stolen:
If you’ve been affected by a past data breach, your information may still be floating out in the dark web. The more times your information has been “hacked,” the more likely it is to be sold and purchased.
It’s important to use different passwords for all your various accounts because there may have been a data breach you didn’t hear about. If your social media password is the same as your bank account’s password, well, you can see where this is going.
High Crime Areas
One of the only bad things about a high credit score is that it can put you at greater risk for identity theft. The higher it is, the more credit someone who steals your identity can get.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Info
Fraud and identity theft increase during the holidays, so it’s especially important to keep your personal information safe during this time of year. The following steps won’t necessarily protect you from a data breach of a retailer you shop with, but if you’re diligent, you can protect yourself from the full impact of identity theft.
Check Your Accounts
Keep an eye on your bank and credit accounts for any suspicious activity. If you see a charge that you don’t recognize it, immediately contact your bank or credit card services to contest it.
Don’t Give Your Info
Emails and phone calls may seem official and important, but you should never give out your personal details unless you can verify without doubt that it’s safe. In fact, most retailers make it clear that they will never ask for your password, social security number, or other sensitive information by phone or email.
Change Your Passwords
It’s a good idea to change your passwords once in a while. There’s the chance that you didn’t hear about a data breach, or your information was held for a while before being used. Changing your passwords can help keep you safe.
Do a Quick Check
Run a background check on yourself periodically. If you have been the victim of identity theft, you might see information attached to your results that are the work of a thief.