5 ways to stay credit-safe this festive season

While you’re playing Christmas music and planning your holiday, criminals are plotting how to get their hands on your credit details and identity. They know when holiday fever strikes, people get careless with their security habits.

Fraud is evolving and increasing like never before. Between 2015 and 2018, TransUnion identified a 433% rise in ‘synthetic identities’, where criminals combine real and fake information to create new identities. We also saw a 126% rise in consumer account takeovers, and a 146% increase in true consumer identity theft.

Trust us on this: identity theft will spoil your holiday. In a big way. According to the SA Fraud Prevention Service, fraudsters using real identity documents and names for impersonations have doubled in the past year.

Here are our top tips to protect your credit and identity during the holiday season.

Keep checking your transaction alerts
If you’re traveling, check your emails and alerts via a password-protected Wi-Fi wherever possible. Even if you’re staying at home, keep an eye on any alerts from your bank. That way, you can flag any suspicious activity straight away.

Make copies of all your important documents
Whether you’re traveling locally or abroad, it’s always handy to have copies of your important documents with you: ID and passports, driver’s licences and credit cards. It makes the process so much easier if you lose a card, or have to block an account.

Protect your physical documents
Don’t leave your passports and sensitive documents in a kitchen drawer. Lock them in a safe or try putting them in a place only a few trusted people have access to. It’s easy to replace a TV and a sound system. It’s not so easy, and a whole lot more costly, trying to fix the results of an ID theft.

Stick to legitimate sites for online shopping
We all love the ease and convenience of shopping online. But make sure your details are safe. Check there’s an ‘https’ in the web address and an icon of a locked padlock on the left side of the URL. The ‘s’ stands for secure and means the site can be trusted. Ensure that the name of the URL is the same as the organisation you are transacting with. Also, try to avoid doing personal transactions and banking on a public Wi-Fi connection. Most public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, making it easier for your information to be stolen or shared with others. Instead, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect yourself.

Never provide your sensitive information in an email
Email phishing is a big part of identity theft and fraud. For example, you’ll get an official-looking email from a bank, asking to verify some aspect of your account for some important reason. Be mindful that no reputable company will ever ask for your credit card, bank account or PIN details in an email. It’s a dead giveaway for a scam, even if the mail seems legitimate. And never, ever, click on any link in an email, that you are at all suspicious of no matter how legitimate it looks.

The best way to check if your identity and credit is safe is to check your bank and card statements and credit reports. Fraudsters are especially active at this time of the year. Catch any attempt at identity theft before it escalates by checking your credit report – which you can get for free, once a year, from information providers like TransUnion.