As holiday shopping begins, protect your identity and yourself

Online shopping increases chances of ID theft, and busy parking lots increase crash risk
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With many outlets already offering holiday discounts, some consumers are getting a head start on holiday shopping. As Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other holiday shopping approaches, online shoppers should take steps now to protect their identities from cyber criminals.

“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, and shopping online can increase your chances of having your information stolen,” says Dan Flynn, managing director of branch operations, AAA East Central. “Shoppers should monitor their credit reports and sign up for credit monitoring services, like the ProtectMyID® program offered to AAA members.”

To prevent theft of your credit card or other personal information over the holiday, AAA East Central Recommends:

  • Don’t shop on an unsecured wi-fi connection or public computers. Consider getting a personal hotspot and VPN if you use your phone frequently in public for financial transactions. 
  • Stick to familiar websites. Don’t use a new website to buy something before checking consumer reviews, and make sure it offers a secure web page for credit card transactions. 
  • Don’t overshare. Don’t share any personal information with anyone digitally until you’ve confirmed who they are.
  • Create strong passwords. These will be harder for hackers to determine.
  • Use two-factor authentication. Should someone crack your password, this’ll add an extra barrier between them and your personal information.
  • When shopping at retail locations, don’t let your credit card out of sight. Make sure your purse or wallet is secure at all times. If using a debit card, protect your pin number from sight and consider purchasing an RFID blocking product. 
  • Keep your smartphone in a secure place at all times and use a passcode lock feature if it has one. Thieves can access a trove of personal data by stealing an unsecured cell phone. 

The AAA member benefit ProtectMyID® provides basic credit monitoring of members’ Experian credit report for free. ProtectMyID® Deluxe offers daily monitoring of credit reports from all three major credit monitoring bureaus, social security number monitoring and $1 million in ID theft insurance. And ProtectMyID® Platinum provides the most comprehensive identity fraud protection, including the monitoring of your minor children’s social security numbers and social media monitoring.

For those shopping in person, take steps to avoid parking lot collisions

For in-person shoppers, parking lots will be crowded with more traffic and more pedestrians. AAA East Central recommends that motorists exhibit the holiday spirit by safely sharing the lots they visit.

Tips for drivers this Holiday shopping season:

  • Drive slowly inside parking lots and garages. Getting the ‘great deal’ is not worth the risk of speeding around to find a space.
  • Stay off your mobile device and always watch for pedestrians and other vehicles. Remember, they may not be paying attention to their surroundings.
  • Back out slowly from your parking space, especially if you’re near large vehicles. Pause once you can see beyond the vehicles parked next to you; this allows passing drivers to see you. 
  • See and be seen. Use your headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces- even in the daytime. The light will let other cars see you coming around turns and can make fitting into that tight parking space a little easier.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Even at a low speed, injuries can occur. Make sure all passengers are strapped in while the car is moving.

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 70 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.  News releases are available at https://news.eastcentral.aaa.com.  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

By Jim Garrity, Director of Public Affairs

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