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identity theft

Cyber Monday kicked off the season of holiday spending, racking up over $3 billion for retailers. Online shopping helps you avoid the madhouse of in-store purchasing and saves you a trip out into the cold, but it also puts you at heightened risk for identity theft. Iowa State Bank wants you to stay alert as you spend online with these tips to track your digital finances:

  • Make transactions privately: Public W-Fi networks are hotbeds of fraudulent activity just waiting to happen. Shared networks are at the hands of the service provider, who may not have firewalls and other safety measures up and running. Save your purchases for home or risk entering personal information into public domain.
  • Keep your ears open: Hackers know the holidays are prime time for theft, and it’s not uncommon for attacks on large databases from retailers and big companies. Pay attention to stores that have been breached through announcements via e-mails and news releases, and take action if information has been compromised by freezing your credit until the coast is clear.
  • Choose credit, not debit: Debit cards are direct gateways into your account, making short work for thieves who’ve gained access to your card. Opt for credit cards this month instead. They’ll leave a paper trail of purchases, and you can set a credit limit that’ll raise alarms if you go over. Plus, credit cards companies often provide full protection from charges made through fraud, helping make sure you don’t take a crisis-level hit to your accounts.
  • Pick one card and stick with it: When possible, dedicate a single card to holiday spending. It’ll lessen the headache of tracking activity across multiple accounts and increase the reaction time to fraudulent activity. It’s also a wiser move when you shop in stores, as it minimizes the risks should you misplace your wallet.
  • Make a list (of bills) & check it twice: As paperwork comes trickling in early January, pay attention to warning signs that something’s amiss. Bills that arrive later than normal, collection notices from products you never purchased, or being turned down for a job or loan unexpectedly are all clues pointing to identity fraud. If you keep a running list of purchases you make throughout the month, you’ll be able to more quickly spot charges that came from foreign sources.

Still a little wary of online activity? Check out more tips to protect your identity – and what to do if it’s stolen – from Iowa State Bank.