In all the bustle of the holiday shopping season, it is critical to take the proper precautions to protect personal and financial information from identity thieves. Here’s how to avoid having an identity Grinch steal your holiday!
1. Pay attention to your surroundings while shopping and carry your purse or wallet securely. The large crowds and your long to-do list can distract you. Never leave your purse unattended and be sure to guard your wallet against pickpockets in the crowd. A stolen wallet is a gold mine to an identity thief.
2. Carry only the credit or debit cards you plan to use for your holiday purchases. If your wallet or purse is stolen, fewer accounts will be affected. Never carry your checkbook if you are not planning on using it that day.
3. Protect your Social Security number (SSN). Do not carry anything with your SSN in your wallet. If your health insurance card, for example, uses your SSN as your account number, ask for an alternate identifier. Do not give out your SSN to store clerks and never write it on a check.
4. Do not take out your credit card before you get to the register. This allows you to control the number of people who see the information on your card and also reduces the chance that you will misplace it.
5. Before making a purchase on-line, make sure that the site is legitimate and secure. Look for “https://” (rather than http ://) in your browser window to make sure your information is protected. There should also be a locked padlock image on your browser’s status bar. If you are uncertain whether the site is secure, do not provide any personal information!
6. Never throw away your receipts without shredding or tearing them up first. Before you shred your receipts though, make sure you crosscheck them with billing statement first in case of discrepancies. If you want to include a receipt with a gift, make sure it is gift receipt and not the actual receipt. No personal information is on the gift receipt.