With the growing amount of stores offering extended holiday hours and online retailers processing transactions every second of the day, it’s important to revisit a topic we have talked about before – identity theft.
While you’re busy being Santa Claus, there are people out there focused on playing the Grinch. When information such as your Social Security number, credit card digits or PIN numbers is compromised, there’s a much greater chance of becoming a victim of this growing crime.
Be smart when you shop and pay your bills by following these tips to reduce access to your personal information.
Holiday Identity Theft Prevention Tips
- Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people just give this away…Don’t provide your Social Security Number unless you’re sure of the source asking for it and why it’s necessary that they have it.
- Lock up important numbers at home, work, or other places where you might keep information.
- If you receive material that contains credit card numbers or bank account information in the mail, lock it up if you need to keep it, shred it if you don’t.
- Copy the front and back of each of your credit cards and debit card and keep it in a secure location (not saved on your laptop or mobile device!) so you can quickly place a hold on the account if you need to.
- Do not have your Social Security Number or Driver’s License Number preprinted on your personal checks.
- Pick up your mail daily. If you’re going away for the holidays, arrange for your local post office to hold your mail until you return.
- If you are not making payments online and choose to mail them instead, do so at a public mailbox. Do not place your payments in your own mailbox as this makes it easy for would-be thieves to intercept your mail and your information.
- With so many emails about holiday deals, it’s easy to miss signs that it could be a fake message and not from a real business or bank. If personal information is requested of you through an email, contact the business or bank directly to confirm it’s a legitimate request. Most places would never use email to obtain this information from you.
- Know when your bills are due. If you always receive your monthly statement on a certain date and several days have passed, contact the company or bank and find out if there has been a delay.
- Check your bills and bank statements each month for accuracy, and obtain a credit report approximately twice a year to make sure there are no errors.
What to Do If You’re a Victim of Identity Theft
If your personal information has been compromised, call the Federal Trade Commission (877-438-4338) or visit their website for advice on the next steps you should take.
You can also contact the police, and share specific details in an Identity Theft Report, which can be used to block fraudulent information, place an extended fraud alert on your credit report and ensure that the debts don’t reappear on your profile for collection.
During the holiday season, you are likely shopping in stores or online trying to get the best deals. Take every precaution to make sure your information is safe so you can actually enjoy the holiday you celebrate.
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