It's the holiday season again and many of us may feel pressured to do more shopping during this time. However, this can make us more vulnerable to identity theft, which officials say is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country.
According to the National Retail Fund, holiday spending increased this year as more than 226 million U.S. consumers took advantage of discounts and deals on Black Friday. Online shopping during Cyber Monday this year also surpassed 2010 levels.
To safeguard your personal information as you shop this season, AAA Financial Services offered the following tips:
• Use cash or credit only. Compromised debit information puts your money at risk because the card is directly linked to your bank account. Credit cards offer greater consumer protection and less liability than your bank card.
• Clean out your wallet. Don't carry excess credit cards or your Social Security card with you. For the cards you do carry, keep all account numbers and phone numbers at home.
• Search before you swipe. Tech-savvy thieves use inconspicuous tools such as skimming devices to steal your card information at ATMs, gas pumps and other pay terminals. Don't use swipe devices that look out of place. Be sure to shield your PIN number as you punch it in or ask the cashier to run your card through the register.
Financial experts also offered tips on protecting your identity when you are shopping online:
• Shop sites you trust. Stick with online retailers you recognize and make sure you are at their correct site. Misspelled domain names or sites ending with unknown domain names can be dummy sites used to capture your personal information.
• Shop secure. Before submitting credit card information, make sure the website is secure by looking for "https://" instead of "http://" in front of the web address.
• Stay off public Wi-Fi. Never use public wireless hotspots to do online shopping, banking or any activity that requires passwords or personal information.