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Identity Theft Tips This Holiday Season

What you'll learn: Tips for avoiding identity theft


The holiday shopping season brings out thieves hoping to score your credit card details or steal your personal identity. It’s easy to get distracted when you’re checking off your gift list, but don’t let down your guard. When you’re in a hurry, it’s all too easy to skip steps that protect your data security. Don’t let the whirlwind activity of the holiday season throw your game off. Protect your identity, protect your credit, and shop securely with these fraud awareness tips from PenFed:

How to Spot Identity Theft

How can you tell if someone has gained unauthorized access to your personal or financial information? Here are a few key indicators and possible scenarios to watch out for:

  • Your check or debit card gets refused at the store.
  • Your usual monthly bills fail to arrive on time.
  • You receive a credit card you didn’t apply for or a bill for an account you did not open.
  • You get calls from debt collectors or companies about items or services you didn’t buy.
  • You see withdrawals or purchases on your bank or credit card statement you do not recognize.
  • You receive a notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you’ve shopped or hold an account.
  • Your credit report lists accounts you do not recognize.
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return has been filed in your name, or you receive tax documents showing income from an employer you do not work for.
  • You receive notification from your bank that your account is overdrawn or a check was returned.
  • Your credit card statement has transactions that you did not authorize.

Trust: The Easiest Route to Fraud

A surge in phishing attacks in 2016 support the theory that the most effective way to steal someone’s information isn’t through sophisticated hacking techniques but by simply tricking them into sharing it themselves. So-called social engineering relies on tactics like phishing, which tempts you into clicking a link in an email that appears genuine but actually downloads malware or directs you to a site capable of harvesting your personal information.

Trust is the name of the game in social engineering. Beware of offers like these, which are often thinly veiled attempts to get you to enter your personal information.

  • Someone appeals to you with an offer to make some easy money.
  • You see a pop-up on your computer or receive an email stating that your bank account has been hacked or your computer has been struck by malware and that you must report or repair the issue immediately.
  • Someone claiming to be from the government or a bank or creditor you use contacts you to submit verification of your personal information.
  • You receive a message from someone you know—actually a hacker in disguise—via social media or email asking for emergency financial assistance.
  • You are selected as a winner of some type of prize (i.e. cruise, money), but you can only obtain the prize by submitting personal information about yourself, such as your social security number or bank account information.

If you receive any messages of this sort, always ask for a name and alternate contact method that you can independently verify. Never submit personal information via email reply or by clicking on a link in an email. Instead, log in at the genuine website address that you’ve typed into your web browser.

Protect Yourself With Text Alerts 

It’s all too easy for your wallet to slip out of your bag or pocket when your arms are loaded down with holiday gift purchases. Text alerts ensure you’ll be the first to know when suspicious charges start ringing up on your account.

PenFed security text alerts alert you via text message or prerecorded message within minutes of unusual activity on your accounts. Reply immediately to validate the transaction or alert PenFed that the transaction was unauthorized. Text alerts are available on all PenFed credit and debit card products, and registration is easy.

Have More Questions about Security? PenFed Has Answers.

Learn more about protecting yourself from online theft and threats.

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