PHOENIX, Nov. 24, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- While families are gathering to stuff themselves with Thanksgiving dinner, eager shoppers are preparing to stuff their carts, and crooks are getting ready to stuff their wallets.
Last year, holiday spending increased as more than 212 million U.S. consumers spent an estimated $45 billion in stores and online from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation. However, amidst the hustle and bustle, consumers may become vulnerable to what the Social Security Administration calls one of the nation's fastest growing crimes—identity theft.
"Shoppers are often overwhelmed by the season's tasks, so it's easy for them to let their guard down, and thieves take advantage of this," said Mark Springsteel, treasurer and director of financial services for AAA Arizona.
To safeguard their personal information this season, AAA Financial Services would like to offer retail shoppers the following tips:
- Use cash or credit only. Compromised debit information puts YOUR money at risk because the card is directly linked to your bank account. Credit cards offer greater consumer protection and less liability than your bank card.
- Clean out your wallet. Carrying excess credit cards, checks or social security card is risky if your wallet is lost or stolen. Only carry the essentials, and keep all account numbers and phone numbers for those you carry at home.
- Search before you swipe. Tech-savvy thieves use inconspicuous tools like skimming devices to steal your card information at ATMs, gas pumps or other pay terminals. Don't use swipe devices that look out of place, shield your PIN number, or ask the cashier to run your card through the register rather than the card reader.
Shoppers searching for deals online are also urged exercise cyber safety with these tips:
- Shop sites you trust. Stick with online retailers you recognize, and ensure you are at their correct site. Misspelled domain names or sites ending with unknown domain names can be dummy sites used to capture your personal information.
- Shop secure. Before submitting credit card information, make sure the website is secure by looking for "https://" instead of "http://" in front of the web address.
- Stay off public Wi-Fi. Never use public wireless hotspots to do online shopping, banking or any activity that requires passwords and personal information.
Consumers can add an additional layer of security by enrolling in an identity theft protection service like LifeLock. This service alerts members to security threats, monitors use of personal information, and even offers a $1,000,000 guarantee should a member become a victim of identity theft. AAA has partnered with LifeLock to offer its members a free 30-day trial and 15 percent membership savings.
To learn more about AAA's consumer financial products and services, visit az.aaa.com/financial.
AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance, vacation planning, discounts and financial services to more than 800,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA's Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls across the state. In 2008, AAA was ranked the No. 1 "socially responsible" brand by Landor's BrandAsset® Valuator. In 2010 and 2011, AAA Travel earned Lovin' Life After 50's favorite travel agency category in the publication's annual reader's choice awards. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers and the motoring public.
SOURCE AAA Arizona