Safe shopping tips to reduce the risk of identity theft

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – Melinda Gilbert changed her shopping habits after her identity was stolen.

“I’m very leery of who I shop with and who I give my information to,” she said.

A recent survey by Generali Global Assistance shows 75% of consumers say identity theft is a concern during the holiday shopping season.

“I worry about it,” said Carolyn Lake, a shopper. “I don’t know what to do about it, so we just hope it doesn’t happen.”

The risk is real, but Nicholas Tella, the director of information security at Johnson and Wales University, said there are ways for shoppers to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a data breach.

“Essentially, we’re at the mercy, as consumers, of the security of that retailer,” Tella said. “Making purchases online through a secure network is much safer than making them at a brick-and-mortar store where their point of sale system, their credit card system, may not be secure.”

Just be sure that you’re only using secure networks. Public networks may leave your information vulnerable to hackers.

“You can also practice safe shopping habits,” Tella added. “Utilize PayPal. PayPal never exposes your credit card information.”

Credit vs. debit?

“The credit card laws are much clearer and more in favor of protecting the consumer as to the consumer liability,” Tella explained. “If a debit card gets hacked, that’s a direct path right into your bank account.”

Monitor your credit card and bank statements regularly. If you notice suspicious activity, report it immediately.