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Simple tips can help protect holiday shoppers from ID theft

Posted December 1, 2014

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— With the holiday shopping season officially underway, security experts say crooks are looking to cash in on unsuspecting consumers.

Approximately 400,000 people in the Tar Heel state were victims of identity theft last year, according to the North Carolina Department of Justice. Nationally, that number is more than 13 million.

Experts say shoppers can help protect themselves by using a credit card instead of a debit card. If their banking information is compromised, they will not lose money from their bank account.

Another tip: Ignore unfamiliar or unsolicited emails with links promising great deals. It could be a scam, called phishing, in which users click a link that leads them to what appears to be a legitimate site.

Instead, experts recommend going directly to a legitimate retailer's website and searching for the deal.

Other types of cybercrime are out of a consumer's control. A recent string of high-profile data breaches at big-box retailers, including Target, Home Depot and Michaels, for example, affected nearly 100 million shoppers.

Bank executives recently told CBS News' 60 Minutes that they expect it to happen again this holiday season.

"We know it's going to. It's inevitable," said Linda Schwartz, vice president of security and fraud investigations at Westfield Bank of Massachusetts, said. "We feel like we're just kind of sitting and waiting for it to happen."

David Elliot, director of the Victim and Citizens Services division of the North Carolina Attorney General's Office, however, says consumers can take proactive steps to limit exposure by being vigilant and looking out for suspicious and irregular activity.

"The advice we give consumers year-round is to check their credit report, look for suspicious activity, check monthly credit card bills," Elliot said. "Do a lot of the things that sometimes people overlook and make it easier for a breach to become a really big problem."

9 Comments

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  • mcondor Dec 3, 2014

    I use a credit card regularly, and pay it in full each month.

    Why do I use the credit card rather than cash? I get a small percentage
    rebate, and I get an extended warranty. In fact just this a.m. I got confirmation
    from MasterCard that they are sending me a check for a 3TB external drive
    that failed 3 months after the manufacturers warranty expired!

  • Edward Levy Dec 2, 2014
    user avatar

    By the time you get your credit card statement , the identity theft is done, and you are usually stuck and have to pay
    I have BEEN through it and LOST

  • mys1983 Dec 2, 2014

    everyone doesn't have/use credit cards...

  • iopsyc Dec 2, 2014

    View quoted thread



    You and I know it's not that simple. Cash has advantages and disadvantages, just like credit cards do. It's all about mitigating your risks and deciding what strategy works best for your own situation.

  • A person Dec 2, 2014

    Use common-sense. Oops, sorry common-sense is all but dead

  • Steve Faulkner Dec 2, 2014
    user avatar

    Simple solution, use cash for everything, problem solved.

  • busyb97 Dec 2, 2014

    Cash is an easy way to avoid ID theft at the box stores. Or if you have to use a card, maybe prepaid credit cards.

  • PowderedToastMan Dec 2, 2014

    Gotta love it when companies outsource their data security to third world countries, then wonder why/how this happens so much

  • jimcricket15 Dec 2, 2014

    Well good luck with avoiding having your credit info stolen. Even if you do EVERYTHING correctly, too much of this is out of your control. I do not USE debit cards. If you are going to use plastic money, use a credit card and pay it off in full every month. Also, use cash for small purchases. Some small business owners give you money off if you use cash.