Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Identity

used with permission from Norton by Symantec
by Christina Schubert

The holiday season is a time of merriment for one and all. That includes scammers, fraudsters, and thieves too. It’s the best time of the year for them to do their worst.

More people will be shopping, partying, traveling, and generally letting their guard down. This gives these criminals an avenue to unleash the Grinch in them.

As the years roll by, holiday-related crimes have evolved. Petty thieves who were once satisfied with pickpocketing or stealing a carelessly placed shopping bag have grown into more complex identity thieves. The few dollars in your wallet have little or no value to these criminals. However, your driver’s license, SSN, debit cards, and credit cards have far more value than you can imagine. The underground economy is a thriving playground for identity thieves.

Even the most careful among us can have our identity stolen. We live in a data-driven world. Our daily activities—like the websites we visit, our social media engagement, and shopping trends—are closely monitored. It’s very hard to get off the grid. Plus, with data breaches at major companies happening more frequently, controlling our own data isn’t always possible.

Here are a few ways these new-age Grinches can get between you and the most wonderful time of the year.

1. Stealing wallets

A stolen wallet is a goldmine for identity thieves. Your driver’s license, credit cards,debit cards, and health insurance cards can be worth $20 to $200 or more in criminal circles.

2. Opening your mailbox

Keep your mailbox locked. Identity thieves go looking for health insurance cards that arrive in the mail at this time of the year. Your outgoing mail with checks, donations,and forms detailing personal information is very valuable to them.

3. Dumpster diving

As you clean the clutter to tidy up your place for the holidays, remember to shred all sensitive documents. Thieves can piece together your information and create fake identities to access your existing bank account or create a new one.

4. Creating phone scams

Phone scams are a constantly changing area of crime. Criminals use creative new ways to get your personal information. Don’t ever disclose any information if the call is initiated by them. Never call the number they provide. Make sure you look up the correct phone number before you contact a bank or credit card company.

5. Phishing

Do not fall victim to clicking on links in emails claiming to be from shopping sites,financial institutions, friends, or seemingly trustworthy organizations. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. When in doubt go straight to the website or call the organization.

6. Keystroke logging

Criminals install devices at gas stations and ATMs that record your debit card number and the PIN associated with it. More people fall victim to this crime during the holidays because they are traveling and using ATMs and gas stations at unfamiliar locations.

7. Hacking public Wi-Fi

With more people spending time away from their homes during the holidays, they might be tempted to use free Wi-Fi provided by malls, coffee shops, and hotels. Avoid unencrypted public Wi-Fi at all costs. Criminals access these unprotected Wi-Fi hotspots to break into your mobile device and steal your personal information. Consider using aVPN to protect your private information on public Wi-Fi, like the Norton WiFi Privacy app.

8. Taking advantage of out-of-date operating systems

Software updates and patches keep devices safe from new and emerging threats. Criminals waste no time in exploiting vulnerabilities once they find out about it. Always install patches and updates as soon as possible. Most are released to protect against newly discovered vulnerabilities.

For all your digital security needs Norton Security has you covered. When it comes to protecting your identity, signing up for a high-quality identity theft protection service will make you rest easy. Norton Identity Protection Elite works around the clock to keep your identity from falling into the wrong hands. You’ll get an alert if there is a suspicious use of your identity. Stay safe and protected this holiday season and don’t let the Grinch steal your identity.