How to Protect Your Personal Finances from Identity Theft this Holiday Season
10.18.2023 | Category: Article
As the holiday season approaches, it’s important to remind your prospective homebuying clients that the holiday season is ripe with identity thieves and cyber-criminals. Many homebuyers are preparing for more than just purchasing a house. They’ll be creating cherished memories with loved ones, embracing traditions, and spreading warmth and joy.
Amid the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, remember that the financial security of your clients also plays a significant role in making the holiday season special. According to an Experian survey, nearly one quarter of respondents reported being a victim of identity theft or fraud during the holidays.
Be sure you know what steps to take to help your clients protect their financial security beyond budgeting this holiday season. Here are some tips to share with your network.
Review Financial Statements
Regularly review your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized transactions. Reporting any discrepancies promptly can prevent potential financial losses. This small yet crucial step will allow you to enjoy the holiday festivities with confidence, knowing that your finances are well-protected.
Did you know using a credit card for holiday shopping often provides added purchase protection, rewards, and fraud security especially compared to cash or debit cards? Responsible credit card usage can even boost your credit score, but it's essential to avoid overextending your credit limit and ensure timely payments. So, opt for a credit card to enhance both your holiday shopping safety and rewards during this festive season.
Monitor Your Credit Regularly
Your credit report is a snapshot of your financial history. Routinely check your credit report from all three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Look for any discrepancies, unfamiliar accounts, or suspicious activities. You're entitled to one free credit report from each bureau annually through AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you come across anything suspicious, it's crucial to take immediate action. First, contact the credit bureau reporting the issue to dispute and investigate the inaccuracies. Additionally, consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your accounts to prevent further unauthorized activity.
Strengthen Passwords and Use Two-Factor Authentication
Protect your online accounts with strong, unique passwords. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using easily guessable information like birthdays or names. Implement two-factor authentication wherever possible to add an extra layer of security.
This additional layer of protection ensures that even if someone gains access to your password, they still won't be able to access your accounts without the second verification step. These precautions can go a long way in safeguarding your personal information, especially during the holidays.
Be Cautious with Personal Information
Identity thieves often prey on personal information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth, and financial account details. Never share sensitive information via email or phone unless you're certain of the recipient's identity. Be especially cautious of unsolicited requests for personal information.
Remember, cybercriminals often take advantage of the season's increased online shopping and hurried consumer activity. Be extra vigilant when receiving unsolicited emails or phone calls requesting personal details, as scammers may pose as gift vendors or charitable organizations. Always verify the legitimacy of such requests to ensure your holiday celebrations remain joyful and secure.
Secure Your Mail and Documents
Your mailbox can be a goldmine for identity thieves. Collect your mail promptly and consider using a locked mailbox. Shred sensitive documents before disposing of them. Store important papers, such as tax returns and financial statements, in a secure location.
Additionally, if you're traveling for the holidays, consider putting your mail on hold or having a trusted neighbor collect it for you. Taking these precautions will not only protect your identity but also ensure that your holiday greetings and gifts reach you safely.
Educate Yourself About Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are prevalent in today's digital age. Be vigilant when clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources. Verify the legitimacy of websites and emails before sharing any information. Legitimate financial institutions and organizations will never ask for sensitive information via email.
Scammers often use cleverly disguised holiday-themed emails to lure unsuspecting victims. Stay cautious when receiving holiday e-cards or special offers from unfamiliar senders. Always double-check the sender's authenticity and avoid clicking on any suspicious links within these holiday-themed emails. By staying alert, you can ensure that your holiday season is filled with joy and not marred by cyber threats.
Remember, a safe and secure financial foundation is essential as they embark on their homebuying journey. By following these steps, you'll help your clients build a strong defense against identity theft, ensuring that their journey toward homeownership remains secure and stress-free, even through the busy holiday season.