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It’s a rightfully growing fear among American consumers.

2 minute read

This holiday season, while 11 percent of shoppers are worried about being pickpocketed or robbed, and another 10 percent believe their cars may be broken into, most are worried about the criminals lurking at the far end of an electronic connection.

Three out of four are either very concerned (29 percent) or somewhat concerned (46 percent) that a hacker is poised to poach their financial or personal information, according to a survey from Generali Global Assistance.

Their fears are well-founded.

This summer, the number of data breaches in the U.S. hit a mid-year record 791 — a 29 percent jump from the midpoint the year prior. And this year promises to end on another record-setting note, the Identity Theft Resource Center reports.

Credit card fraud and email scams are on the rise, with the Federal Trade Commission counting 1.3 million fraud-related consumer complaints last year that involved $744 million in bogus bills. The median amount paid out by consumers at the wrong end of those deals was $450.

One in five emails sent today are fraudulent and most companies with web domains haven’t even tried to implement protections to prevent it, according to new research from ValiMail, which is in the business of automated email authentication.

Meanwhile, more and more devices from cars to fridges are connected to our cyberworld. And while surveys show consumers are more wary of the ways these devices can be tapped to make private details pubic, they also reveal that the appetite for these gadgets is only growing.

All these inroads into our personal information are multiplied by the season of giving and spending — a season in which the typical household is expected to spend nearly $1,000 on holiday shopping.

“During the holidays, most consumers spend more money, find themselves in crowded areas more often, and overall may be less attentive to identity protection best practices at this busy time of year, “ says Paige Schaffer, president and chief operating officer of Generali’s Global Assistance Identity and Digital Protection Services Global Unit.

How to protect yourself

Short of going Grinch, what’s a shopper to do?

Limit your exposure by limiting the number of cards you use. Consider carrying only one with you, curbing the risk if your purse or wallet is stolen. Choose the card that pays you back the most — and don’t forget to collect the rewards as too many people do. And better if it has a chip for greater security.

Keep your receipt — digital and paper. All those emailed receipts? Assign them to one folder. The paper ones could take a folder or envelope too.

Cover your pin both at the ATM and the checkout counter.

Beware of emails that pose as receipts or tell you there’s something wrong with the delivery of your purchase — they could well be phishing. In the same vein, don’t litter the internet with your information by signing up for lots of email promotions.

Use secure networks when you are shopping online — that’s https, not http. And if you’re using a mobile device, double check the URL. Experts warn of dummy URLs that are harder to spot in the shorter fields on phones.

Check your bank and credit statements regularly. If they are on paper, shred them when you’re done.

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About the Author

Michelle Bryan

Michelle Bryan

Ms. Bryan is the Public Relations and Communications Manager for

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