1 in 4 Americans Report Falling Victim to Fraud During the Holidays

1 in 4 Americans Report Falling Victim to Fraud During the Holidays article image.

With the holidays fast approaching, many Americans are preparing for celebrations that will be vastly different from any in recent history. Many consumers are staying home this year, and 62% of Americans say they'll do more of their shopping online compared with last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With concern over identity theft on the rise—and more people planning to shop online—now is an especially important time for consumers to be vigilant about protecting their personal information.

As part of our annual review of holiday spending and shopping habits, Experian surveyed 1,000 consumers throughout the U.S. to see how they felt about their safety from fraud this year. Read on for our insights and analysis.

1 in 4 Respondents Have Fallen Prey to Fraud During the Holidays

Nearly one quarter—24%—of survey respondents reported being a victim of identity theft or fraud during the holidays, according to Experian's survey. Compared with last year's survey, that number has doubled from 12%.

As for how this fraud occurred: 22% of those asked said it happened when they used a credit card while shopping at a retail store; 21% said it happened while shopping online during the holidays; and 15% narrowed it down and said it happened specifically while shopping on Cyber Monday.

The type of fraud that saw the most growth since the last survey did not actually occur online—rather, it happened when consumers had their personal belongings stolen. Some 22% of survey respondents said the identity theft or fraud occurred when their wallet or purse was stolen or lost while shopping—that's up from 13% last year. Another 15% said they experienced fraud after their mail was stolen during the holidays—up from 4%.

Nearly 1 in 5 Have Experienced Pandemic-Related Scams

On top of the expected identity theft issues, 18% of Americans said they fell victim to fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Experian's survey. Since the onset of the outbreak, numerous COVID-19 related scams have popped up, including fake COVID-19 testing, stimulus payment theft and more.

Over half of respondents—57%—say they believe there is a greater risk of fraud this year due to the increase in online shopping brought on by COVID-19. Still, the risk of infection will continue to drive people to shop from home instead of doing so in person, despite worry of possible fraud.

A total of 62% of Americans say they plan to shop more online this year due to the pandemic compared with last year. The share of people who plan to shop in-store dropped from 52% in 2019 to 43% in 2020.

One-Third of Americans Will Use Credit Cards Designated for Online Purchases

Even with concern over fraud on the rise, the Experian survey found that consumers are still willing to take risks to get good deals during the holidays. More than a quarter of Americans—28%—said they would risk becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud in exchange for getting a good deal on Cyber Monday. This represents a 9 percentage point growth since 2019.

And while some are willing to risk it for a good deal, the majority—82%—agree that they want their banks and credit card companies to be more careful during the holidays. On top of wanting protection from financial institutions, one third—33%—of consumers will use a credit card designated to online purchases to help protect themselves while shopping.

Some Consumers Plan to Enroll in Identity Monitoring In New Year

One in 10 consumers say they plan to make enrolling in a credit monitoring or identity theft protection service a financial New Year's resolution for 2021. Services that provide credit monitoring and identity theft protection can be lifesavers when it comes to early detection of fraud. They typically alert you to suspicious or unusual activity with your personal information so you can take action with your financial accounts and credit reports right away.

If you're concerned about protecting your identity going into the holidays, consider enrolling in Experian IdentityWorks℠ protection so you can make sure your personal information doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Regularly monitoring your credit reports and scores, which you can do for free with Experian, can help you know if new accounts are opened in your name without your permission and also what accounts are listed in your credit file.