Simple tips can help protect holiday shoppers from ID theft
Posted December 1, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — 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."