Holiday shoppers can reduce the chances of becoming an identity theft victim this year by taking some simple preventative measures, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
The hustle and bustle of the holidays creates the perfect opportunity for thieves bent on stealing your credit cards or other financial information, said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. Shoppers are tired, stores are crowded and it’s easy to become less guarded about personal information that appears on personal checks, drivers licenses and credit cards.
1. Keep the amount of personal information in your purse or wallet to the bare minimum. Avoid carrying additional credit cards, your social security card, or passport, unless absolutely necessary.
2. Guard your credit card when making purchases. Use your hand as a shield when using automatic teller machines (ATM) or making long distance phone calls with phone cards.
3. Always take credit card or ATM receipts. Do not throw receipts into public trash containers, leave them on the counter or put them in your shopping bag where they can easily fall out or get stolen.
4. Proceed with caution when shopping online. Make sure you are buying from a reputable, familiar retailer with a secure network. And never buy anything online from a site that does not have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You will know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://).
5. Monitor your accounts. Do not rely on your credit card company or bank to alert you of suspicious activity. Carefully monitor your bank and credit card statements to make sure all transactions are accurate. If you suspect a problem, contact your credit card company or bank immediately
6. When entering names, numbers and addresses into your electronic device, keep them as generic as possible. Include only as much information as is necessary, and never use monikers like “Hubby,” “Sweetheart,” “Best Friend,” or “Mom and Dad.” Do not store important social security or banking information on your personal digital assistant (PDA) or cell phone—if it is stolen, the thief will have all the necessary information to use your identity.
7. Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. When creating a password, avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, any part of your social security number or phone number, or any series of consecutive numbers.
8. Do not give out personal information. Whether on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet, do not divulge sensitive information or your social security number unless you initiated the contact, are familiar with the person or company and are confident that they have a secure line.
9. Shred, shred, shred. Tear or shred any documents that contain personal information such as credit card numbers, bank statements, charge receipts or credit card applications, before disposing of them.