Holiday Shopping Season Poses Risks For Identity Crime

Friday, December 07 at 09:00 AM
Category: Personal Finance

As holiday shopping continues and consumers increase their spending, extra caution should be taken to prevent financial information from being stolen and misused. December is Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month and also the time of year when most identity crime occurs. Identity theft is a concern for everyone, especially during the holidays.

Identity fraud, the actual misuse of stolen identity information, is an increasing problem in the U.S. According to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 11.6 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2011, an increase of 13 percent over 2010.*  

Last year, for the 12th year in a row, identity theft topped the list of consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Of the more than 1.8 million complaints filed with the FTC in 2011, 15 percent were related to identity theft.**

Enjoy the holiday season, but consider these steps below to protect yourself and your identity.

Important Holiday Financial Safety Tips 

1. Check your account balance frequently

  • Knowing your balance enables you to identify unauthorized charges sooner
  • Utilize free services such as online banking or mobile banking to check your balance and account activity securely while on-the-go
  • If you see something unusual or unauthorized, contact the bank immediately to report it

2. Stay alert when shopping

  • Only take the necessary debit cards, credit cards or amount of cash when shopping
  • Be aware of your surroundings, including people around you, when checking out
  • Keep an eye on your debit and credit card at all times 
  • Stay off your cell phone when checking out
  • Ensure you leave the store with your cards and cash

3. Check your mail

  • Collect your mail daily 
  • If you’re going to be out of town, place a hold on your mail until you return 
  • Notify the bank if you will be traveling for the holidays
  • Shred any bills or receipts you no longer need before discarding

4. Send money the secure way 

  • Don’t send cash or checks via mail where they can easily be lost or stolen
  • Use automatic person-to-person payment service such as Arvest’s Popmoney  to send money securely via text or email
  • Give a gift card instead of cash.  These can be registered to the user and replaced if lost or stolen

5. Shop online safely

  • If you're not using a large, well-known retailer, check for credibility. Do your homework before giving out your card number
  • Be sure the retailer’s website is secure 
  • While doing any holiday shopping, always keep a close eye on your account activity

IDProtect™ 

Regardless how careful you are, identity theft can happen.  Arvest Bank offers a “whole house” identity-theft protection service – IDProtect™ – as a feature to our account lineup. IDProtect™ is an identity theft resolution service that also includes credit file monitoring and protects you and your immediate family. If you become a victim of identity theft, experts will provide you with professional fraud resolution, helping you document damage and file necessary paperwork. This recovery plan reduces time spent restoring your credit and reputation, and valuable expense reimbursement is offered to help cover eligible expenses related to clearing your name and repairing damaged credit. Learn more about this valuable service in helping protect you and your family.  If you have a question about how to add this coverage, contact us.

There are many things consumers can do to protect themselves from fraud. Even simple things listed above such as checking your account balances frequently and exercising caution when shopping online can be vitally important.  Use these strategies to protect yourself and have a safe and happy holiday season!

* Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book. February 2012.  ** Javelin Strategy and Research. Identity Fraud Survey Report, February 2012.   When clicking on external links, you are leaving the Arvest website and going to a third party website.  

 
Tags: Consumer Protection, Credit Cards, Debit Cards, Financial Education, Fraud Alert, IDProtect, Mobile Banking, Online Services, Privacy and Security
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