Stay Safe This Season and Beyond

A couple dressed in holiday attire looking at their credit card while buying something online at the same time.

There’s a heightened risk of falling victim to identity theft and fraud during the holiday season, especially as you work your way down your shopping list amid the frenzy of the season! Whether you’re stretching your budget to afford presents, struggling with travel plans, or rushing to get everything done, the extra expenses and pressure could make you a prime target for identity theft or scams.

Scammers are always on the prowl, but the holiday season is especially ripe for identity thieves and fraudsters. While the dangers are real, there are also things you can do to protect yourself from falling victim to a scam or having your personal information compromised.

1. Practice Caution Shopping Online 

Online shopping scams were the riskiest type of scam in 2022, according to the most recent Better Business Bureau Institute Online Scams Report. Not only are these scams the most common, but they’re the most likely to lead to financial loss for their victims.
Follow these tips for avoiding online shopping scams:

  • Beware of online marketplaces. Practice extra caution or simply avoid shopping on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, NextDoor and other online marketplaces. If you’re buying directly from a person and paying in cash, you won’t have the same purchase protections you’d get when buying from a reputable retailer or when using a credit card.
  • Use traceable payment methods. If you’re asked to pay using gift cards, cryptocurrency or a wire transfer, that’s a red flag that the transaction could be a scam.
  • Look out for “too good to be true” deals. One huge online shopping scam red flag is highly in-demand products at surprisingly low prices. Scammers create websites with realistic listings of scarce in-demand products, such as gaming consoles. Once you check out, you may find that you get an order confirmation and then never receive anything at all.

2. Safeguard Your Passwords 

Take the time to consider your account security to help minimize the possibility that your accounts will be compromised. Use these best practices for keeping your accounts secure:

  • Use a unique password for all your accounts. If that seems like too much effort, at least create unique and hard-to-guess passwords for your financial accounts. A password manager—even a free one—makes this easy to accomplish.
  • Turn on multifactor authentication. Wherever possible (and again, with priority to financial accounts), turn on multifactor authentication (MFA). This security feature requires you to take an extra step to verify your identity before you can log in, and it could help keep your information safe if your account’s password is compromised.

3. Check for Skimming Devices 

In this type of fraud, a scammer attaches a device called a skimmer to a card reader. Skimmers can be so small that they’re hard to detect, and your transaction goes through like normal. Unbeknownst to you, the device copies your card’s information so it can be used or sold later.

If you’re shopping in stores, check for card-skimming devices that may be attached to an ATM or card reader. Card skimming fraud is very prevalent and is estimated to cost financial institutions and consumers over $1 billion each year, according to the FBI.

4. Verify Requests for Donations

Scammers may take advantage of people’s generous nature during the holidays. They’ll often send emails or make phone calls posing as representatives for charitable causes and use spoofing technology to make it look like the email or call is coming from a real charity.

A couple of additional tips to protect yourself:

  • Beware of fake QR Code scams – these scams hijack safe QR codes and send you to phishing websites that steal your financial information, or worse, your device could be infected by malware.
  • Use a Credit Card – not a debit card, don’t carry a lot of cash.
  • Shopping at night – park in a well- lit area and shop with another person if possible.
  • Put items that you purchase in cargo /trunk area of vehicle.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Artificial Intelligence: beware of phone scammers using artificial intelligence to mimic voices, tricking people into thinking their loved ones are in trouble.
  • Logoff your accounts, Facebook, on-line banking, and email.
  • Do not give out personal information (date of birth, social security number, credit card number) over the phone or by email.
  • Do not wire, send Bitcoin, or send gift cards to anyone that you have not met in person.

The precautions above can help you finish your shopping and enjoy the holidays while protecting yourself from identity theft or fraud.

This post was originally published by Experian and written by Louis DeNicola, October 25, 2023 at