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Christmas Shopping

3 Easy Ways to Avoid Identity Theft While Shopping for Holiday Gifts


Shopping for Christmas gifts is fun, but it can be tricky to protect your personal information whether you’re purchasing in store or online. However, that shouldn’t stop you from treating yourself and loved ones this time of the year. These simple tricks will help you avoid identity theft while ensuring that your transactions are safe and secure this holiday season!

Shopping in-store? ‘Shield’ Your Wallet

Electronic pickpockets use a radio frequency ID (RFID) to steal data from microchipped cards, explains Simon Smith, digital forensics expert at eVestigator . And all they need to do is pass by you to snatch your card’s data. The easy fix: “Just wrap a bit of foil around your wallet to block the transmission of RFID signals,” advises Smith.

Also smart: If you’re swiping your debit card at a store, hit the “credit card” option. This way, if a hacker sneaks a data-stealing skimmer inside the machine, you won’t have to enter your PIN, keeping your information safe.

Shopping online? Use a ‘Faux’ Number

A few major banks offer a free tool: virtual credit card numbers. “They’re randomly generated digits linked to your credit card and set up to make a one-time purchase,” explains Joseph Steinberg, author of Cybersecurity for Dummies (Buy on Amazon, $12.99). “If your virtual credit card number somehow makes it into the hands of hackers, they won’t be able to access your account.” Just visit your card issuer’s website and activate the service when you’re ready to shop online.

Also smart: Add your credit card to a digital wallet, like Apple Pay or Google Pay, which encrypts data with each transaction so it can’t be reused.

Shopping on your phone? Restart it

Malware needs “continuous activation” on your phone to keep working, says Sinan Eren, digital security expert at Barracuda Networks. “This means simply rebooting your device (turning it off and back on) deactivates malicious activity.” Charging your phone on the go? If you’re using a public USB charger, check your phone for a pop-up asking, “Do you trust this device?” If it appears, unplug your phone from the USB because it’s capable of doing more than innocently recharging. “It also can transfer data, such as malware, to your phone,” says Eren. To stay even safer, bring along a portable charger and use it whenever possible.

Also smart: Consider downloading free anti-malware at

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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