Holiday identity theft is one of the few growing businesses. Protect yourself from identify thieves with these tips for Christmas shopping, banking, entertaining, and mailing.
Prevent Holiday Identity Theft: Store Shopping
Don’t carry any identity documents you don’t need. Women should consider locking their handbags in their car trunk. Often, you can carry just a driver’s license and credit card securely in a front pocket or small zipped bag you can hang in front of you. Keep your credit card in sight during all transactions.
Prevent Holiday Identity Theft: Online Shopping
Beware of email frauds and fake websites. If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. Many identity thieves are using social media sites so be cautious about tweets from people you don’t know. Make large purchases only from retailers with trusted names. Make sure you’re at the real domain. Scammers will try to copy legitimate domains, but rarely bother to set up secure sites. When making a purchase, make sure your browser changes from “http://” to “https://” to indicate that your private information is being treated securely.
Prevent Holiday Identity Theft: Banking
In addition to guarding your PIN from anyone trying to look over your shoulder at an ATM, now you have to be alert for skimming. Identity thieves attach devices to ATM slots to steal banking information. The old advice about using ATMs at banks rather than convenience stores is now being questioned because identity thieves prefer the higher volume locations without 24 hour staff around. Report any ATM if you suspect tampering. Try to familiarize yourself with what your bank’s real ATM screen should look like. Check bank statements, credit card statements, and other accounts frequently to promptly report any disputed transactions so you don’t get stuck paying. Avoid debit cards if possible because they offer the least protection.
Prevent Holiday Identity Theft: Entertaining
Entertaining can be another holiday hazard. In addition to having strangers in your home, it’s sad to contemplate that up to half of identity theft is committed by people the victim knows. It’s always a good idea to keep sensitive documents in a lock box or safe. This is especially true when you have more people than usual in your home.
Prevent Holiday Identity Theft: Mailing
Screen your mail to remove documents that attract identity thieves including pre-approved credit cards. Confetti shred any document with personal information. If you don’t already have a locked mailbox, get one.