Southern California’s high rate of identity theft crimes compared to the rest of the US means that holiday shoppers need to be especially cautious and take steps to protect themselves during the holiday shopping season, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
California is the state with the largest number of reported identity theft incidents and the third-highest rate of ID theft crime per capita, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
“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,” said John Straser, manager of the Auto Club’s ProtectMyID® member benefit.
Straser said credit monitoring is an important consumer protection, especially for those who will frequently use their credit cards over the holidays. The free member benefit ProtectMyID® Essential provides basic credit monitoring of members’ Experian credit report. ProtectMyID® Deluxe offers daily monitoring of credit reports from all three major credit monitoring bureaus, social security number monitoring and $1 million in ID theft insurance.
And ProtectMyID® Platinum provides the most comprehensive identity fraud protection, including the monitoring of your minor children’s social security numbers and social media monitoring.
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.
- Beware of fake gift cards offered through websites or third parties. Buy gift cards directly from the retailer. When buying a card from a kiosk in a store, ask the clerk to check the card and activate it before you buy. Scammers have been known to tamper with cards and then put them back on shelves.
- Be wary of who you accept an e-card from. Cyber criminals can load e-card links or attachments with viruses and malware that download to your computer once you click on the e-card.
- If you donate to the needy during the holidays, be sure the charity you’re donating to is legitimate. Never give in response to an email solicitation or phone call. Instead, identify a charity you want to support, research it thoroughly and make a donation securely, either through snail mail or the charity’s own secure website.
- 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. Consider getting a personal wi-fi hotspot if you use your phone frequently in public for financial transactions.
- 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. If using a debit card, protect your pin number from sight.
- Keep your smartphone in a secure place at all times, 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 the ProtectMyID program by visiting a AAA branch, or AAA.com/creditmonitoring,