AAA’s guide to preventing ID theft this holiday season

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With an increase in online and in-person shopping, the entire holiday season is like Christmas morning for identity thieves. With credit and debit cards being swiped at faster rates each year, there are multiple opportunities for thieves to steal personal data. AAA East Central recommends holiday shoppers be especially cautious and take steps to protect themselves this season.

“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes today, and a stolen identity can really put a damper on the holidays,” says Dan Flynn, manager of Financial Services, AAA East Central. “Changes in shopping behavior and credit monitoring can go a long way to help deter this prevalent crime.”

Flynn notes that credit monitoring is especially important for those who will frequently use their credit cards over the holidays. The free AAA 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, AAA East Central 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, 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. Hackers may be able to steal that information, especially on public computers or on public Wi-Fi. Consider getting a personal 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. Make sure your purse or wallet is secure at all times. If using a debit card, protect your pin number from sight and consider purchasing an RFID blocking product.

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.

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 79 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members. News releases are available at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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