Before you start your Christmas shopping, you should take a few precautionary steps to protect yourself from identity theft and fraud. Identity thieves are very savvy and have many creative ways to steal from their victims. The following no-cost suggestions will help you take protective measures to avoid becoming one of the growing numbers of identity theft victims.
• Online Shopping – The internet is a great tool to compare prices and shop for bargains, but it is riddled with identity thieves. When shopping online, always use the same credit card. Just in-case your credit card information is stolen online, using only one card will limit the damage. Avoid using your debt card; designate a credit card with a low credit limit and closely monitor the activity on that card. Always use a secure connection. Never use your credit card online by using public Wi-Fi. Online purchases should only be made with trusted companies that offer transaction security protection and have strong privacy and security practices. After your purchase, clear your logins and passwords.
• Watch Your Credit Card – When using your credit card at a restaurant or at a store, watch your card. If it is out of your sight, a duplicate could be made. If you’re standing in line at a store take notice if someone is fidgeting with their phone. They could be trying to take a picture of your credit card when you hand it to the cashier. Gas stations, restaurants, and retail stores are all perfect locations for opportunistic identity thieves.
• Only Carry One Credit Card – When shopping, try to carry just your identification, a credit card, and cash. If you lose your wallet or it is stolen, you can limit the damage by carrying only one card. If your card is stolen, contact your bank immediately. Having only one credit card with you when you shop will make a lost or stolen card much more manageable.
• Monitor Your Statements – Check your bank and credit card activity on a regular basis, so you can catch erroneous activity right away. Especially look for small purchase, possibly even just a few dollars. An identity theft may be checking to see if your account is active, before making a large purchase. Also, check your mailing address regularly with your financial institutions and local post office. Identity thieves may try to change your mailing address to gain access to your personal information and account numbers. Never put sensitive outgoing mail in your mail box for the letter carrier to pick up. It is just an open invitation for your identity to be stolen.