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It’s the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and it’s called Black Friday for a reason.  Over the past 30 years, the amount of money shoppers spend on the Friday after Thanksgiving has provided many companies the ability to turn a profit for the year, finally getting “out of the red” and “into the black,” in accounting terms.   In more recent years, Black Friday has also been a “hacker holiday” and the Kasmann Insurance Agency would like to provide you with some tips to keep your identity safe this holiday season.

ID Theft Types of Theft

According to the Bureau of Justice, about 7% of Americans (more than 17.5 million people) are victims of identity theft each year.  In recent years, there have been numerous reports of companies being hacked on Black Friday and people’s personal information being stolen. Identity theft, sometimes referred to as ‘iJacking,” can happen in a variety of ways.  True name identity theft occurs when a thief uses your personal information to open up new accounts, sign-up for new services, or take out new loans.  Another common method of identity theft involves a thief using personal information to gain access to a person’s existing accounts or services.  As soon as a thief is successful in an “account takeover”, he/she will change the mailing address on the account to prevent their victim from seeing statements, charges, etc…

What You Can Do

Whether you are shopping in store or online, we have put together a list of helpful tips to help you prevent your identity from being stolen.

In Store

  • Be cautious in stores.  It should go without saying, but Black Friday will be swarming with shoppers.  Ladies, do not set your purse down anywhere and it is even recommended to carry a bag with a cross-body strap so it cannot be easily pulled off your shoulder.
  • Carry as little in your purse and/or wallet as possible.  You do not need your Social Security card to shop, so take it, and other important documents out of your wallet.
  • “Cash is King!”  It goes without saying, but no one can hack your bank account or department store account if you don’t pay with a debit or credit card.  Another alternative to cash is a pre-paid card. If you still want to use credit, limit the amount of cards you carry to one or two.  Ideally the card(s) you chose has a low credit limit.
  • Steer clear of giving out too much personal information.  Retail stores will often ask for your phone number, your zip code, or your email address when you check out.  You can politely decline from answering any of those questions.  If the cashier insists, ask for a manager who can override the system.

Online

  • Delay your online purchases.  Spyware attacks and account hacks typically begin to peak mid-October through Thanksgiving.  Many stores will begin offering Black Friday deals online prior to Thanksgiving, some as early as a week ahead of time.  Reports show the Monday prior to Thanksgiving is often attacked much more heavily than Cyber Monday.  If you’re going to shop online, wait at least a week for the turkey and the hackers to settle.
  • Avoid public WiFi.  Lots of folks look for and use free WiFi, but not many consider the security, or lack thereof.  Don’t ever access your bank account or input your credit card numbers via wireless Internet, since this is when your financial information is most likely to be stolen.
  • Use secure websites.  Check to be certain the site you are shopping on has a security icon like an unbroken key or padlock to the left of the website address.
  • Be sure security software is installed and up-to-date on your personal computer or laptop.  One popular free option is available through Avast at:  https://www.avast.com/en-us/index
  • PayPal is a great service that allows you to pay using a third party.  You can link any or your credit cards or bank accounts to your PayPal account, and instead of entering your personal account information on a company’s billing screen, you simply enter your PayPal password.  To enroll, visit: https://www.paypal.com/home
  • Do not swipe your card on a cell phone card reader.  Sales consultants and smaller businesses may use cell phone card readers instead of professional grade credit card machines. These readers do not offer the same cyber security or encryption that the larger machines do.  If this is your only option, opt to pay cash instead.
  • Watch your back. Believe it or not, thieves still “shoulder surf” while you are entering a PIN, password, credit card number, etc…  If you are using your laptop, or other electronic device in a public place, try to find a seat where your back is against a wall and not directly next to other people.  Another suggestion is to use your free hand to cover the keypad when entering PINs.

Other Miscellaneous Tips

  • Shred all of your paperwork that contains confidential information.  This even includes credit card offers sent to you in the mail.  Criminals can activate pre-approved cards rather easily without your knowledge.
  • Do not give out your personal information to people you do not know or trust – especially over the phone.  If anyone calls to offer you any type of prize and asks you for your Social Security number, credit card number, or your mother’s maiden name ask them to send you the paperwork in the mail.  If they refuse, hang up.
  • Obtain a current copy of your credit report and regularly check your bank accounts and credit cards statements for any questionable transactions.  You can get a free credit report here: http://www.creditkarma.com/

Insure With the People You Trust

How can your insurance agent help you with Identity Theft?  Some of the carriers Kasmann Insurance Agency represent offer Identity Theft, or Identity Fraud, protection.  This coverage is typically available under a homeowner’s policy, but Auto-Owners also offers it as an option on their car insurance policy.   According to Wikipedia, the average victim of Identity theft spends about 330 hours trying to resolve their case.  If you purchase Identity Fraud coverage, your insurance company will provide reimbursement for expenses associated with restoring your identity (attorney fees, loan application fees, etc…), as well as reimburse you for lost earnings.

We can not only provide you with tips on keeping your personal information secure on the busiest shopping day of the year, but we can also provide you with coverage in case something does go wrong.  Call Kasmann Insurance before you make any purchases this Holiday Season to inquire about Identity Theft coverage. It is a fairly inexpensive coverage that we can easily put in force for you today!

*If you have already been a victim of Identity Theft, please see the following attachment for a list of the proper steps to take:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0009-taking-charge.pdf