The holiday season is a time of cheer, love, laughter, and bright spirits. Loved ones draw near and gift giving brings excitement and surprise! Shoppers hit the streets and web with money to spend and all types of thoughtful gift ideas. With this in mind, thieves and frauds also gear up for a season of scamming. With Black Friday sale revenues upwards of 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2014 the potential for fraud and identity theft in store and on-line is broad and bountiful.
It is often said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. In most cases this may be true, but when it comes to your identity and personal information, it’s just plain illegal. Pretending to be someone you’re not is also known as identity fraud and is an all too common scam that can have lasting effects on your credit history. This type of scam is particularly prevalent around the holiday season.
IRS figures show that over a thousand identity theft investigations were conducted in 2014. In 2013 there was a 66 percent increase in identity theft related criminal investigations over the previous year.
“Prosecution recommendations, indictments, and those convicted and sentenced for identity theft violations have increased dramatically since FY 2011. Sentences handed down for convictions relating to identity theft have been significant, ranging from two months to 317 months (irs.gov). ”
While these statistics can be startling, there is no need to panic. Along with the holiday season comes an influx in credit related fraud. However, identity theft and fraud will hardly disappear with the passing of the holidays. Innovation brings newer, faster, more convenient, and automated ways to use technology to meet our personal and business commerce needs. With this, inevitably, comes new ways for crooks to exploit those advancements. As the IRS and other agencies crack down on identity theft and fraud, thieves are steadily searching for new ways to turn the holiday season into a payday.
There are, however, some key ways that you can equip and protect yourself during this season and throughout the year!
- Check your credit card and bank statements regularly and avoid questionable links or sites.
- Monitor your credit regularly. Not only will this keep you on track towards LuxuriousCREDIT, it can also prompt you sooner than later in the event your personal information is compromised.
- List all of your credit card and financial account numbers along with expiration dates and pertinent phone numbers and company contact information. This information should be filed in a secure place. This practice will allow you to alert your creditors quickly in order to prevent possible identity theft if your purse or wallet is ever lost or stolen.
- Closely monitor your credit and familiarize yourself with what should be appearing on it. Credit monitoring services are a great tool in this regard and can help prevent identity theft by alerting you when changes appear on your credit report.
- Be cautious with your personal information and aware of contacts and solicitations from potential scammers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that Internal Revenue Service imposters are the #1 imposter scam and they’re on the rise. Fake agents using fake caller ID that may appear official and actually say “IRS” are contacting individuals demanding payments in the form of prepaid cards or wire transfers. These scammers may know several pieces of your personal information to include the last four digits of your Social Security number. They may even threaten and try to scare you with promises of wage garnishment, bank account levies, deportation, or worse. The best way to protect yourself from such fraud is to know the facts and know your rights.
After a day of shopping and spending be sure to take a few moments to log on to your credit card accounts to review your transactions. On a secure network, preferably at home, review your card activity to make sure everything is as it should be. Look for suspicious or unfamiliar charges and contact your card issuer immediately regarding any transaction that is not yours. Most card companies will allow you to put a hold or a freeze on your account to prevent future charges while your account is under investigation.
Want to help your friends and family protect themselves from identity theft and fraud? Click below to share this article with them on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Shop smart, be credit savvy, and have a Happy Holiday season!