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Prevent Identity Theft During the Holidays and All Year Long

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that nearly 10 million incidents of identity theft occur each year. What’s more, the average victim spends $500 and 30 hours to resolve each occurrence, and with the already limited time and money the holiday season can bring, it’s particularly important to safeguard your identity from potential thieves. Here are some tips to help protect yourself this shopping season:

Safeguard Receipts: If you’re like most holiday shoppers, chances are you’ll be making multiple stops to multiple stores gathering multiple receipts.  Be sure to tuck receipts away securely after each purchase. Even if credit card numbers don’t appear on the receipt in their entirety, the customer name often does. With information readily available online, a simple search is all it takes for a thief to commit a crime.

Bring Only What You Need: Bring only your driver’s license and the credit cards you intend to use with you to the store or mall.  Shopping with extra cards or personal ID information (such as Social Security cards and passports) puts you at greater risk for identity theft should these items be lost or stolen.

Beware of Free-Standing ATMs: Free-standing ATMs are known targets for thieves who use skimmers to lift your information.  A better option is to use ATMs located in bank lobbies or at locations secured with video surveillance. Be sure to shield your card and PIN number when making transactions.

Is Someone Too Close for Comfort? Be wary of someone standing in close proximity to you while you are making a credit/debit card transaction. Smart phones can easily capture a picture of your information for later use. Thieves may also simply write down information they see during your transaction. So be sure to guard your information from potential thieves.

Protect your Purse/Wallet: Keep your purse closed and in a secure position on your body.  Loose and open handbags are prime targets for thieves.  The same is true of keeping a wallet in your back pocket. All is takes is an incidental “bump” to lose your money, credit cards, and/or personal information.

Update your Computer: When shopping online, make sure you have the latest security updates to your browser and operating system. One of the easiest ways thieves can compromise your computer is with out-of-date software.  Don’t fall prey to these hackers.  Stay up-to-date, and make sure you have some virus and malware protection as well.