‘TIS the season to be jolly – but don’t let your guard down when it comes to protecting your personal information and financial well-being this Black Friday and festive season.That’s the warning from TransUnion director Garnet Jensen, who says that while identity theft is a year-round problem, the holiday season is a prime time for criminals looking to steal your credit card details and other financial information such as your driver’s license or identity document.“The holidays present a wealth of opportunity for identity thieves,” says Jensen. “Shoppers are rushed and doing more transactions than usual, and stores are crowded. It’s easy to become less guarded about exposing your personal information — both in high-tech ways like phishing scams, and in traditional ones, such as a stolen wallet.”According to a TransUnion survey in 2017, 75% of South African adults are worried about the possibility of identity theft. It’s a real fear — almost half of the respondents (49%) have either personally been a victim of identity theft or know someone who has, with more than one in ten respondents (11%) personally falling victim to identity theft.Importantly, for shoppers heading for crowded malls, the most popular ways identity thieves get access to your sensitive personal information remains through physical theft (28%), like pickpocketing or bag-snatching. Theft of banking information by ATM scams or from online, mobile, or person-to-person transactions was mentioned by 27% of respondents and 18% mentioned online breaches such as hacking and phishing as a cause of identity theft. The problem with identity theft, says Jensen, is that victims typically only find out about the theft months later — by which time their account is in arrears and other credit accounts have been opened in their name. “Generally, thieves will use the victim’s identity to purchase products and services on credit, particularly for high-end goods like electronics and luxury items,” he said. “In the worst-case scenario, thieves can use your ID to apply for large value credit purchases such as vehicle finance or even commit a crime using your identity.”TRANSUNION’S TOP FIVE TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR ID SAFE THIS FESTIVE SEASON• Keep your identity documents safe. Be careful where you keep your ID documents, and don’t carry them on you if you don’t have too. Fourteen percent of ID theft victims say the theft of their ID documents resulted in their identity being compromised.• Be alert when using ATMs. Look out for anything even faintly suspicious when banking at ATMs or card terminals. Pay attention to the device being used and your surroundings.• Shop from reputable websites. Before providing any personal or payment information, ensure the URL is secure and begins with “https” (not “http”). Also ensure that the domain name in the URL is the same as the organisation you are transacting with.• Beware of calls, SMSs, and e-mails bearing gifts. If a caller, e-mail or SMS offers financial reward or requests personal or banking information, delete it. And never, ever click on a link you don’t know.• Sign up for credit alerts and check your credit report. One of the first places identity theft shows up is on your credit report. It is therefore important to regularly check your credit report for changes. Our credit alert product will notify you of critical changes to your credit report — like a credit inquiry or new account. For more information on how you can protect yourself from Identity theft with TrueIdentity, visit transunion.co.zaABOUT TRANSUNIONWe are a trusted provider of global information solutions for assessing and managing risk, driven by a belief that information can help advance our industry, facilitate commerce, and ultimately increase the standard of living for consumers around the world. In that light, we see information differently—not just for what it is, but for what it can help people accomplish. Because when businesses and consumers have access to more complete and multidimensional information, they can make more informed decisions and achieve great things. —Supplied.