Holiday Season Brings Identity Theft

With just a few days until the “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” shopping landmarks… many North Central Florida residents are making their lists and checking them twice.

But at the top of the list… are concerns about credit card fraud. As “Cyber Monday” grows in popularity– so do the odds of identity theft.

“Have you ever had your identity stolen?”

“Several times…,” said Andrea Karow.

Karow says she’s been a victim of credit card theft.

“Well, most recently I guess I was in the Atlanta airport and someone managed to get my card number and had a shopping spree at Victoria’s Secret among other awesome women stores,” said Karow.

Karow said she was immediately notified.

“My bank actually called me and said ‘hey, we noticed that there’s a charge here in Gainesville at 10:00 a.m. and here’s one at noon in Atlanta did you make these?’ and I said ‘no it’s impossible’ and someone had managed to get it from me.”

A retail expert at the University of Florida says preventing theft begins the moment the card arrives in the mail.

“There are several basic things that people often forget to do. For example, when you get a credit card, you want to immediately sign the back of it,” said Steve Kirn, Executive Director at the Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research Center at the University of Florida.

Kirn also recommends shopping with a trustworthy friend instead of a group, keeping your pin number secure, and using a credit card instead of a debit card.

While identity theft is a year-round problem, the hectic holiday season is prime time for this crime.

“Credit cards, the transactions can be overturned, you have 60 days to track down problems and put holds on things. With a debit it’s immediately deducted from your account,” said Kirn.

With the number of online shoppers growing, Kirn says it’s best to shop on a secure website, check your credit score two to three times a year, and don’t leave any personal information unattended.

“The number of people who are going to shop on Cyber Monday is increasing substantially. Last year, 30 percent of people said they were going to shop on Cyber Monday, this year is 46 percent.”

And while the holiday season is merry for most, it can leave others with a different feeling…

“It’s incredibly frustrating. Because, I mean, there’s not a whole lot you can do,” said Karow.

Except keep your account secret– so there will be no more surprise purchases from Victoria’s Secret.

Steve Kirn also advises consumers to use one card rather than several to limit the chances of having their identity stolen.

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