As shoppers snap up gifts, décor and travel arrangements for the holidays, they can take steps to protect themselves both online and at the shopping center, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
With credit and debit cards being swiped at the fastest rates of the year, there are multiple opportunities for ID theft both while shopping online and in the store. Auto Club members have access to two excellent member benefits that provide identity theft monitoring. The free member benefit ProtectMyID® Essential provides basic credit monitoring of members’ Experian credit report, while ProtectMyID® Deluxe offers comprehensive daily monitoring of credit reports from all three major credit monitoring bureaus, plus many other valuable features to safeguard identities of both members and their children.
To prevent theft of your credit card or other personal information over the holiday, the Auto Club recommends:
- Stick to familiar websites that you know are secure. Don’t use a new website to buy something before checking consumer reviews, and make sure it offers a secure web page for credit card transactions.
- Don’t shop online or access/type personal data while using an unsecured wi-fi connection in a public place or on a public computer. Hackers may be able to steal that information.
- When shopping at retail locations, don’t let your credit card out of sight when paying for purchases. Make sure your purse or wallet is secure at all times.
- Keep your smartphone in a secure place when shopping or out, and use a passcode lock feature if it has one. Thieves can access a trove of personal data by stealing an unsecured cell phone.
Auto Club of Southern California members can enroll in ProtectMyID Deluxe by calling 877-279-6418 or by visiting AAA.com/creditmonitoring.
In addition to the possibility of ID theft, shoppers visiting the malls can be at increased risk of traffic crashes and becoming crime victims during the busy holiday season. The Auto Club offers the following tips:
- Buckle up. Even a low-speed collision can result in injuries. Make sure that everyone is strapped in a seat belt, child safety seat or booster seat while the car is in motion, even if it's a short trip to another part of the parking lot.
- See and be seen. Use your headlights during the daytime so that other drivers will see you and avoid crashes in parking lots and on the streets. Research shows that even in daytime, keeping your headlights on reduces crash risk.
- Exercise caution. Be aware of your surroundings and pay extra attention to the cars around you, especially when you're backing out of your parking space. When behind the wheel, always be on the lookout for pedestrians and hard-to-see children.
- Try the side door. At the mall, everyone wants to park near the stores, especially near the main entrance. But most malls have secondary entrances on the sides, and those entrances usually have less traffic and more convenient spaces.
- Be courteous. Don't steal a parking space that another driver was patiently waiting for. Allow extra time to find a parking space.
- Keep windows clear. Make sure your defroster or defogger is working properly. Make sure your windows are clear before backing out of your parking spot. To help, be sure that packages, winter coats and other items don't interfere with your line of sight.
- Get the vital statistics. In the event of a crash, be sure to obtain the names, addresses, telephone numbers, insurance carriers and policy numbers of the other motorists.
- Be extra careful and don't argue. Carry your purse under your arm. Keep a wallet in an inside jacket pocket, not a back trouser pocket. Note any strangers approaching you. If someone approaches you in the parking lot with a weapon and demands your wallet, purse or car, comply. Loss of these items isn't worth your health, safety or your life.
- Look out for little ones. Children can be hard to see in busy parking lots and often make quick, unpredictable movements. When walking to and from the car, hold their hands to keep them safe from traffic.
- Be prepared. Anticipate that the malls will become busier with last minute holiday shoppers. Remember it may be easier to park further away than closer to shops. If it's nighttime, park in a well-lit area. Shop in the evenings or when stores open early in the morning. Even if you're rushed, stay alert to your surroundings. Have your keys in your hand before you head out to go to your car. Scan the interior of your car to make sure no one is hiding inside.
- Conceal your purchases. Don't set yourself up for a vehicle break-in by leaving your purse, wallet, packages or other valuables in view while your car is parked or while you're driving. Put packages and shopping bags in the trunk. Keep your vehicle's doors locked and windows closed.