The holiday shopping season is underway, and for many Americans, that means skipping the crowds and going online to buy gifts.
Experian surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. adults this fall to learn about their holiday shopping habits. While those surveyed planned to spend an average of $846 on gifts this year, 23% said dealing with crowds was the worst part of doing that holiday spending.
As a result, nearly half of all shoppers surveyed (47%) said they planned to conduct most of their holiday shopping online, either with their computers (32%) or mobile devices (15%). That trend, however, may also be putting them at risk for online identity theft.
Online Shopping Made Some Vulnerable to Identity Theft
The growing popularity of online shopping also attracts criminals who try to take advantage of consumers using their credit cards online to find the best deal.
In fact, 8% of those surveyed said they had been a victim of identity theft that occurred during a holiday shopping season. Of those victims, 27% said the identity theft occurred while they were shopping online during the holiday season, while another 16% said it specifically occurred while shopping online on Cyber Monday, one of the most popular online shopping days of the year.
Americans Are Feeling Safer Shopping Online
Fewer Americans reported being victims of holiday shopping identity theft this year than they did in 2017, which could be a sign that people are becoming more diligent about online shopping safety during the holidays.
Concerns about holiday identity theft this season is shrinking, however. In 2017, 75% of those surveyed were concerned for very concerned about identity theft during the holidays; that number had fallen to 72% in 2018.
What's more, only 13% of respondents said they would risk becoming a victim of identity theft in order to get a good Cyber Monday deal. That is down three points from the 16% of people who said they would risk identity theft for a Cyber Monday deal in 2017.
Of those who said they would risk becoming a victim of identity theft for a good Cyber Monday deal this year:
- 19% were between the ages of 25-34
- 17% had incomes of $100,000 or more
Protect Yourself Shopping with These Online Shopping Safety Tips
A little more than half the consumers surveyed said that they planned to be vigilant while shopping online this holiday season. Some of the ways they planned to protect themselves included shopping only on personal, protected WiFi connections and checking to make sure sites were secure before shopping online.
As you shop this year, consider these additional tips to protect your identity online:
- Stick with credit cards vs. debit cards. Credit cards generally offer stronger protections against fraud. If a criminal is able to use your debit card, your bank account balance can get wiped out—and it could take you a long time to get the money back.
- Stay up-to-date with online scams. Phishing scams try to trap you into providing more personal information that criminals can use to create synthetic identities or open up new credit accounts in your name. There are several variations of phishing scams—including spear phishing, angler phishing, and smishing.
- Use strong account passwords. This can seem like a waste of time, but if hackers get access to your account passwords they can sell those on the dark web where more criminals will have access to them. If you repeat the same passwords across online sites, that means criminals can get access to more of your accounts. Make sure you create secure passwords and don't use the same password across different accounts.
- Monitor your identity (and credit). You can start doing both by checking your free Experian credit report for mistakes or suspicious accounts. You can also do a free dark web scan to find out if any of your personal information is on the dark web. You can consider filing a free initial fraud alert on your credit file that remains active for one year through the Experian fraud center. The fraud alert notifies lenders pulling your credit report to take extra steps to verify your identity.
- Block credit access to your credit reports by initiating a security freeze, that is a free measure to prevent lenders from issuing new credit in your name altogether. Another way is through Experian CreditLock, a benefit offered by Experian's CreditworksSM and IdentityWorksSM products.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
This article was originally published on November 19, 2018, and has been updated.