Lock It Down Before You Shop: Guarding Your Identity During the Holidays Is Critical

Photographs By Pat Molnar/Drew Leach

SWEPT UP IN the spirit of the holiday season, most shoppers don’t think twice before swiping a credit or debit card or clicking “submit” online. But fraudsters come with anything but glad tidings. So be sure to exercise caution with your personal data and take advantage of tools that help protect your data.

The bad news: This year, simple hacks of credit card databases have given way to massive thefts of personal information, and millions of Americans have been affected by attacks on government and private computer systems. With Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses and even fingerprints exposed, the risks for consumers are greater than ever.

“There is clear and present and growing danger,” says Gary McAlum, USAA’s chief security officer. “This was the year that personally identifiable information became readily available to hackers at a very low cost. Cybercriminals have become more sophisticated in gaining data — through data breaches, automated phone calls, email phishing and social media scams.”

The good news: As the threats become more sophisticated, so do the tools to help you defend against them.  

At USAA, legacy security models — traditional username and password, along with static information like mother’s maiden name — are giving way to more dynamic, stronger security tools.

Members already can take advantage of advanced logon features, such a rotating six-digit number called CyberCode™ Token, which is generated by a cellphone app and must be used when logging on at usaa.com. Mobile app users can logon with biometrics — fingerprints or face and voice recognition. Members also should use their newly issued “chip” credit cards wherever businesses accept them, since chip technology is more secure than old “swiping” magnetic strip cards.

“While no company can promise 100% security, USAA shares the responsibility with members and works tirelessly to help protect them from cyberthreats,” says Dave McDermitt, USAA’s chief information security officer. “USAA.com’s Security Center is a great resource for members to find tips and tools such as Enhanced Logon and the Security Advisor Checklist.”

Even with all the recent large-scale cyberattacks, McAlum says web and mobile phone banking remain extremely safe when used with the proper security tools.

“I feel safe even when the cybersharks are swimming around me,” he says. “I’m very, very comfortable. It’s about risk management.” 

Learn more at USAA’s Security Center



Not all security features may be available for your device.

Use of the term “member” or “membership” does not convey any eligibility rights for auto and property insurance products, or legal or ownership rights in USAA. Membership eligibility and product restrictions apply and are subject to change.


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