It’s that time of year when our attention turns to family, friends, good cheer and, of course, shopping. eMarketer forecasts that total US retail sales will climb 3.8% to $1.008 trillion during the 2019 holiday season, making it the first ever trillion dollar holiday season. The firm expects US retail ecommerce spending will rise 13.2% to $135.35 billion. Last year on Cyber Monday alone, sales reached nearly $8 billion in the US and beat Black Friday sales.
In 2018, Experian found that nearly half of shoppers (47%) planned to conduct most of their holiday shopping online, either with their computers (32%) or mobile devices (15%). But data also shows that this trend may be putting consumers at risk for identity theft.
While consumers are distracted by the holiday spirit and getting the best deal online, these conditions mark the high season for fraudsters. This year’s Experian survey found that 12% of shoppers said they fell victim to identity theft during a past holiday season. Of those, more than half (52%) said the fraud occurred while they were shopping online and 1 in 5 reported that the theft happened on Cyber Monday.
Retail isn’t the only sector affected. The holidays are also a major travel season with airlines, hotels and home sharing services expecting record numbers in 2019. NerdWallet found that almost half of Americans (45%) plan to spend money on travel this holiday season, nearly $160 billion across the country. Again, most of these transactions will take place online and can be open to fraud.
The IRS shared one reason that identity theft is rampant in the waning months of the year. “The holidays may mean the shopping season to consumers, but it’s the hunting season for online thieves,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Identity thieves are looking for your information to help them file fraudulent tax returns.”
It’s important for consumers to protect their identities during this season to avoid major headaches next year. Here are a few do’s and don’ts that will help.
Do Business with Trusted Institutions – Preferably Ones that Verify Identity
Don’t chase the best price for the hottest toy or the flight to Grandma’s house this year without checking those links. Scammers can set up sites designed to steal your data without providing the goods or services offered. Consumers should stick with businesses they know, making sure the URL is correct and includes “https” in the address.
Buy from businesses who verify identity not only for existing accounts, but when onboarding new ones. The same goes for in-store purchases. It is in businesses’ best interest to adopt verification solutions that are fast and customer friendly, encouraging loyalty and trustworthy transactions. Passwords and quick ID scans by a store associate aren’t sufficient anymore. The best and most secure retailers will offer ID verification via a quick card scan, biometric matching via a selfie, fingerprint or voice. These solutions are readily available today to all industries.
Don’t Do It in Public – At Least Not on Public WiFi
When shopping online, especially with a smartphone, avoid using a public WiFi connection. This information can be snatched out of the airwaves and used to compromise accounts and commit fraud. Even data stored in the connected device such as a driver’s license number or social security number can be vulnerable on an unsecured network. Often smartphones contain myriad sensitive information so either use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to connect or wait to access a secure network before checking email or making that purchase.
Do Monitor Accounts
It’s easy to get overwhelmed this time of year with a flurry of activities, travel and a higher volume of transactions. Yet this is exactly why consumers need to be more vigilant in monitoring their accounts for unusual activity. Consumers can also check their credit report – often for free – for mistakes or suspicious accounts.
Many retailers offer even deeper discounts to shoppers who open a store credit card account, but it’s important that consumers use caution throughout the enrollment process. It can be preferable to enter personal details online to avoid having them stolen by store personnel or an over the shoulder spy.
Consumers can also file a fraud alert with the major credit reporting bureaus, which notifies lenders that they need to take extra steps to verify the borrower’s identity. For consumers who don’t plan to open any new credit accounts this season, a security freeze, which blocks access to credit reports, can be a good option for preventing identity fraud.
Don’t Click the Links
Phishing emails will also be on the rise during the holidays, pretending to be banks, retailers, charities and utility companies. Consumers need to make sure that links received via email don’t point back toward an altered link, often with one or two letters missing or changed. These scams are designed to gather personal data such as a credit card number or email and password, which can be used for fraudulent purchases, to open new credit accounts or to create synthetic identities.
Acuant’s Trusted Identity Platform speeds up, simplifies and strengthens processes for in store or digital transactions via cloud, mobile/apps, kiosk & desktop scanners. Retailers can catch fraud via instant ID verification and facial recognition, all in seconds.