This is How to Keep Your Identity Safe During the Holiday Shopping Season

man checking credit card on smartphone while holiday shopping
Eva-Katalin/Getty Image

We can all agree: It’s OK to play Christmas music now.

Put up your tree, string lights along the roof, frost cookies and spend an entire weekend blowing up that giant yard Santa.

Unless you’re that über-planner in the family who’s been slowly gathering gifts since May, now’s also the time to start shopping.

Yes, I know the holidays can get costly. We’ve got tons of tips to help you save money on everything.

But I actually want to talk about one other giant holiday-shopping bummer a lot of people don’t think about until it’s too late: Identity theft.

I know: It’s the holiday season, right? If scammers had a heart, they’d take the month off and let us all just enjoy our gifts and cocoa.

Unfortunately, they don’t — that’s kinda their deal. And this is a great time to be an identity thief, because tons of people are swiping cards for tons of transactions over the next few weeks.

Each transaction is an opportunity for a scammer to steal your information.

That’s some next-level Grinching.

How to Get Free Identity-Theft Protection

If you want to keep your information safe this holiday season, you’ve got a few options:

  • Go off-grid and carry tons of cash (safe for your information, maybe… but not so safe for your, um, safety).
  • Learn a bunch of new skills and hand-make all your gifts (hope everyone in the family likes that same orange-blue-brown knit beanie in the one size).
  • Monitor your credit to stop scammers before they take a Caribbean vacation in your name.

I’m going to go ahead and recommend that last one, because muggers are basically old-timey identity thieves, and no one in your family likes the beanie; they’re just trying to be nice.

I use the free service from Credit Sesame, which will send me an email or text alert if someone tries to apply for credit in my name. And it comes with $50,000 of identity theft insurance and fraud assistance in case something goes wrong.

(P.S. If someone’s able to get a loan in my name, I’d like to know their secret, because my credit stinks.)

In addition to the fraud protection, Credit Sesame lets you see your credit score and free credit report card — so you can keep tabs on those credit card bills after the shopping frenzy is over.

Want to protect your identity from Grinches? Take a few minutes to sign up for Credit Sesame here.

Dana Sitar ([email protected]) is a senior writer/newsletter editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.

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