This is part three of our holiday shopping security article series
Part one and part two of this article series pointed out that holiday shoppers who fail to secure their personal information are often easy targets for identity thieves. Unfortunately, most people don't even realize they are victims until it's too late as criminals can do significant damage very quickly when they get their hands on sensitive data and information.
We asked the experts to discuss the signs of compromised data and identity, what holiday shoppers should do once they know these signs, and what they can do to protect their identities.
Dr. William Rials, Associate Director and Professor of Applied Computing and Technology at Tulane University School of Professional Advancement
"One of the best and immediate signs is unknown charges or withdrawals that you did not make showing up on your statement. During the holiday season, it is essential to keep a close look at all of your financial statements. Don’t wait until the end of the month to reconcile your accounts during the financial season. The more often you monitor and verify all charges and withdrawals the better chance you have at stopping identity theft. Also, check your credit report for any suspicious accounts that have been recently opened without your knowledge."
Rials said that "the first step is to immediately change all passwords for all internet sites including email accounts, retail store websites, and especially financial institutions such as your credit card and online banking websites."
He also suggests you do the following actions if you find out that your identity has been compromised:
"It is recommended to stay vigilant concerning identity theft beyond the holiday season. Invest in a credit monitoring service and identity theft insurance."
Steve Weisman, Scam, Identity Theft Expert, and Owner of Scamicide.com
"Indications that you have become a victim of identity theft during the holiday season include charges you didn't make turning up in your bill which is a reason that you should regularly check your credit card statement online rather than wait for a monthly bill to be sent to you. The earlier you become aware of a problem, the easier it is to fix it."
Steven Hausman, President of Hausman Technology Presentations
"There are many potential signs that your identity might have been compromised, including the following:
Doug Brennan, Manager of the Digital Addicts Blog
"If you notice any suspicious charges on your bank account, this could be a sign that your identity (and/or credit card information) has been stolen. While this can happen to anyone at any time, the holiday season is an especially vulnerable time. So, keep an eye on your bank account this holiday season, and if you notice any suspicious charges, don’t hesitate to report them to your bank."
Overall, identity theft and other cybercrime can be difficult to notice right away and recover from. Identity thieves and cyber criminals are continually trying new tactics to get their hands on your identity and other important personal information. Once they get what they want, they can ruin your life in a matter of minutes.
This holiday shopping season, you might want to consider doing research on where you are going to shop, who you plan to give your information to, what payment methods you will be using, and what precautions you are going to take to avoid having your identity stolen. After all, it only takes the purchase of a single holiday gift to compromise your identity and ruin your holiday cheer.