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Online holiday shopping could generate identity theft risk

Nov 21, 2013 Dave King

Online holiday shopping could generate identity theft risk

With many of the same deals found online, many consumers are making the shift to shopping for the holidays from the comfort of their own home. In fact, the Internet surpassed discount department stores as the top shopping destination for the first time this year, according to the annual Deloitte holiday shopping survey.

Almost half of consumers plan on purchasing gifts online, compared to 44 percent at department stores. More than 75 percent said they will shop online for the convenience, while 63 percent said the price is their main reason.

"Shoppers put a premium on both their time and the shopping experience," said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP. "That shift bodes well for retailers as it suggests shoppers are no longer exclusively price driven. However, immediacy, service and selection will be paramount this year, and retailers need to offer a seamless, easy to navigate experience between their online, mobile and brick-and-mortar channels."

While there are many advantages to shopping online, people could also be putting themselves at risk of identity theft when entering personal information on the Internet. For this reason, short term lenders need to step up ID verification procedures during and after the holidays to ensure applicants aren't using stolen names. These financial institutions should also make consumers aware of the steps that can be taken to avoid identity theft during the holidays.

- Avoid scam websites: During the holidays scam artists often create bogus websites offering big discounts on products, according to CNBC. It is important to be wary of any of these websites as consumers could end up a victim of identity theft. It may be tempting to venture off to unknown sites when items can't be found at major retailers, but people should avoid this action at all costs. Consumers who do encounter an unfamiliar website might want to check if it is rated by the Better Business Bureau to determine if it is legitimate.

- Don't open digital greeting cards from unknown sources: In recent years, ecards have grown in popularity. However, consumers need to beware of cards that come from unfamiliar people as these could contain malware. Hackers often send these out during the holiday season, and consumers who open them could become a victim of identity theft. The best way to avoid such a situation is to never click any links or open attachments from unknown sources because someone could be trying to commit identity theft.

- Fraudulent shipping notices: Another trick identity thieves use to steal personal information is by sending bogus shipping notices. With so many people shopping online this year, it may be easy to pass these off as real, which is why consumers need to be vigilant. When a link is clicked in these notices, computers are infected with malware, which can aid criminals in identity theft. Therefore, consumers need to be sure shipping notices are legitimate before opening them.