Protect Yourself Against I.D. Theft This Season

Protect Yourself Against I.D. Theft This Season

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The final week of Christmas shopping is upon us, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is done shopping. This year, sales are down suggesting that many consumers are waiting for last minute bargains to appear or perhaps cutting back on their spending. Regardless of how, where, or when you shop there is something you need to keep in mind in order to protect yourself as some thieves may try to steal your personal identity.

Identity theft continues to cost consumers, credit card companies and merchants billions of dollars annually in lost revenue, time, and in that hard to measure category — aggravation. You can prevent identity theft by keeping the following in mind:

Save Those Receipts — Nobody likes to be swamped with paperwork, but keeping receipts for all purchases going back as long as 90 days is great way to cross check your credit card bill against purchases. Once your purchases are verified, then shred the receipts you will not need (with a cross cut shredder), but keep those with guarantees/warranties attached for later reference. Also, keep copies of your credit card statements for up to seven years.

Watch Those Checks — Banks have moved away from requiring consumers to post their social security numbers on checks as this step has been a proven contributor to identity theft. If you are planning to give a gift this season and your social security number is printed on your checks, then give cash or a gift card instead. Make a resolution for the coming year to order new checks without sensitive personal information printed on them.

Shop Online, Carefully — Some would say that online shopping is dangerous. On the contrary, identity theft occurs more often through the carelessness of shoppers who leave receipts behind at stores, share personal information over the phone, etc. When shopping online make sure that your computer’s firewall and anti-virus software packages are up-to-date and only shop on a secured site. Look for a closed padlock in the corner or bottom of your browser when making a purchase and that web address should start off with https when you are at the point of purchase — the “s” means that the site is secure.

Run Your Credit Reports — By law, the credit reporting bureaus are required to provide one free copy of your credit report to you annually. Order your reports and check it for errors; if incorrect charges are being made under your name they’ll likely show up in your reports.

Update Your Passwords — One company had their accounts tampered with when the thief discovered that the password being used was the word password. Passwords should be at least eight characters long, contain numbers and letters, even symbols.

Identity theft can happen at any time of the year and in ways completely unexpected for consumers. Situational awareness — whether shopping online or in a store — is crucial to protecting your privacy and securing your identity.

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Categories: Money Management

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