Increasingly, we are doing our holiday shopping online. Although it’s a great way to avoid the hassle of the crowds, cybershopping is fraught with its own challenges, including the ever-present threat of identity theft, a risk that’s even more relevant to Floridians. The Sunshine State has the highest per capita rate of identity theft reports in the country. Take precautions to prevent becoming an identity theft victim this holiday season.

Keep an eye out for charity scams. Let your heart – and your head – be your guide as you help those in need. Scammers prey on our propensity to give during the holidays, so it is important for you to do your homework before making any donations. Instead of replying to an email solicitation, visit the organization’s website directly. You can also visit the Charity Navigator website if you have doubts about a charity. Do not give out your Social Security number when making a charitable donation. There is never a reason to do so.

Obtain identity theft protection. When purchasing identity theft protection make sure it includes credit monitoring services so that you can be proactively notified of new or unusual activity on your accounts.

Look out for “skimmers." Sometimes, identity theft can happen right in front of your eyes. Thieves use a device called a “skimmer,” which can be attached to a card reader at the gas pump, ATM, or even at a cash register. This device records your information when you swipe your card. Avoid using card readers that appear to have been tampered with, and cover your PIN number when you type it on the number pad.

Be careful when shopping online. Always type in the URL in order to access a company’s website instead of accessing it from an email. Make sure it is secure before you shop: look for an “https” in the URL or a combination lock icon on the toolbar near the URL; both of these indicate that the site is taking extra security protocol by encrypting your information when you submit it.

Change your usernames and passwords frequently. Make sure your password is extremely hard to figure out or hack. Change it frequently and use numbers and symbols in addition to letters.

Using a credit card is safer than a debit card. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act and Electronic Fund Transfer Act, if you report the loss of your credit card before it has been used, you are not responsible for any charges you didn’t authorize. (If you don’t report your card loss before it is used, your liability for unauthorized use is a max of $50). If your credit card number is stolen, you are not liable for any unauthorized use. However, these protections are not necessarily available for your debit card. Your liability depends on how long you take to report the loss of your debit card or its number.

Check your banking statements frequently. See the above tip to understand the importance of this tip. Monitor your statements frequently to quickly identify and report unauthorized purchases.

As you give gifts this season, make sure you add yourself to the list: protect your identity with a comprehensive identity theft protection program. If you have any tips to help avoid identity theft, please comment below.

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Also:  Get an instant quote to make sure you have the Florida home insurance you need in the event of a holiday mishap.