Filed Under:Markets, Commercial Lines

Identity theft takes the sparkle off of the holiday shopping season says new study

Consumers less likely to shop at vendors that have been hacked

Consumers believe they face a greater risk of having their identity or financial information stolen when shopping online this holiday season. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Consumers believe they face a greater risk of having their identity or financial information stolen when shopping online this holiday season. (Photo: Shutterstock)

When it comes to shopping at retailers that have suffered a data breach, 75% of Americans say they would be more skeptical about shopping there during the holidays according to a new survey from Generali Global Assistance (GGA).

While 91% of Americans expect to engage in some form of holiday shopping, the majority don’t believe that retailers can adequately protect their personal information.

The study found that 40% of consumers don’t think businesses are doing everything possible to protect their data. Of the consumers expected to shop during the holidays, 75% are either somewhat or very concerned about a data breach impacting their information.

Related: Target agrees to pay $18.5 million to end data-breach probes

woman checking out of a store

Shoppers are very concerned about protecting their identities and credit cards during the holiday season. (Photo: Shutterstock) 

Risky business

Where consumers shop affects where they perceive the greatest risks to be. More than half of the shoppers (57%) believe that online merchants will have a greater risk of identity theft than traditional brick and mortar retailers, where only 22% of consumers think their data is in danger of being stolen.

Related:  Cyber thieves target personal data during holidays

These figures are even higher than the risks shoppers think they face from being pickpocketed or robbed (11%), while 10% are concerned about having their car broken into while shopping. Most interesting is that 84% of Americans said that a previous data breach for a retailer would impact their willingness to shop at that establishment.

“Consumers are clearly more concerned than ever about identity theft and related issues as we enter the 2017 holiday season,” said Paige Schaffer, president and COO of Generali Global Assistance’s Identity and Digital Protection Services Global Unit. “With data breaches at major organizations occurring so frequently and impacting literally millions of people in the U.S. alone, consumer confidence in the ability of businesses to protect their data has been shaken.”

Despite these concerns, they still won’t be enough to deter shoppers from spending money. Credit cards will continue to be the most used form of payment, followed by cash and debit cards. Some consumers still use checks and a small group will utilize mobile payment apps.

running a credit card through a card reader

Despite concerns about keeping their financial information safe, 91% of consumers expect to engage in holiday shopping this year. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Spending capital

Since approximately 75% of shoppers anticipate doing their holiday shopping online, it will be important that vendors and shoppers protect their personally identifiable information and credit cards while they are shopping.

“The holiday season is the busiest shopping time of the year, and all this spending results in increased vulnerabilities for hackers and other nefarious parties to exploit,” explained Schaffer. “The increased use of credit cards, greater smartphone usage and even crowded malls can all pose identity theft risks during the holidays. Fortunately, there are steps that consumers can take to protect themselves in order to enjoy a worry-free and festive season.”

Related:  5 most common types of holiday theft

Consumers are using their cell phones to make purchases online and while they are out shopping in traditional brick and mortar stores. “Regardless of where they are being used, consumers should limit the use of unsecured, public Wi-Fi networks,” cautioned Schaffer. “While using such networks may be tempting because of the convenience they provide, unsecured connections may create openings for hackers to steal your personal information.”

Some malicious parties will set up unsecured networks in public areas, hoping that unsuspecting consumers will fall prey to their schemes. “If you must use a public network, it is essential to never access your financial account or any other sites that require a password,” added Schaffer.

When shopping online, consumers should make sure to look for the security certification logos on websites. They should also check the URL address to make sure it begins with “https” instead of “http” since the “s” indicates the site is secure. Using a single credit card for online purchases and a separate one for brick and mortar stores can make it easier to monitor the cards for unauthorized purchases.

 man stealing a woman's wallet from her purse

Shoppers need to be aware of who might be after their credit card information whether they're shopping online or in a traditional store. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Keeping your data safe

Online isn’t the only place where shoppers are at risk. “Throughout the holidays, many consumers will find themselves in crowded locations – malls, parties, airports and the like. Crowded areas are ideal for pickpockets, as all the hustle and bustle can leave even the shrewdest individuals unaware,” said Schaffer. She cautioned shoppers to keep their wallets, passports, smart phones and other sensitive items secure in their bags or pockets and only take them out when needed. “It is also important to remain especially vigilant and alert when you find yourself in a crowd, particularly when traveling.”

Places like ATMs and gas pumps can be easy targets for fraudsters who utilize credit card skimmers to capture sensitive information. Make sure to hide your personal identification number when inputting it into a machine. Consumers should also be aware that credit cards offer more fraud protection than debit cards do if the account number is stolen.

Other practical solutions to keep information safe include enabling fraud alerts from financial institutions to help track unusual activity; monitoring statements for unauthorized purchases or activity on accounts; keeping documents and valuables safe when traveling; keeping phones password-protected and changing passwords on accounts regularly.

There are no shortage of opportunities for hackers and other fraudsters to gain access to personal and financial information throughout the year, but the holidays seem to magnify them because of the increases in shopping, entertaining and travel. Take time to implement some practical safety steps to keep fraudsters from stealing your holiday joy.  

Related:  4 ways to avoid giving your data to cyber thieves this holiday season

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