Holiday Shopping? How To Deter Identity Thieves

Like the song says, little things mean a lot, especially during the holidays. A greeting card with a heartfelt, handwritten note, a tin of homemade cookies – these simple gestures speak of the holiday spirit.

During the holidays, the little things you do – or don’t do – can also mean a lot when it comes to protecting yourself from identity theft. The holiday season is rife with opportunity for identity thieves, as shoppers swarm malls, stores and websites looking for the perfect gift. Unfortunately, holiday shopping and identity theft go together like holly and evergreen.

It may be hard to keep minutiae in mind when you’re in the middle of the holiday hustle and bustle, but small steps can help ensure identity thieves don’t enjoy the season at your expense. This season, ProtectMyID, Experian’s identity theft detection, protection and resolution service, offers a few tips for protecting your personal information while you shop:

At the mall

* Only carry in your wallet what you absolutely need. Take only the credit cards you will use and leave your Social Security card, library card and other potentially identifying personal information at home.

* Never leave your purse or wallet in the car and always conceal packages in the trunk. Avoid leaving anything in sight inside your vehicle that might tempt someone to break into it.

* When you hand over your credit card for a purchase, be aware of who’s around you. Check over your shoulder, because identity thieves can stand behind you and snap a picture of your credit card – with your name and account number on it – using a cell phone.

* Likewise, make sure the sales clerk doesn’t leave your sight with your credit card. Criminals have been known to make copies of cards.

Shopping online

* Know who you’re buying from. Conduct a Web search of the name of the vendor you’re thinking of buying from and see what others have to say about the company. Check the Better Business Bureau to find out whether the company has any complaints against it.

* Keep a record of basic information for every website you buy from. Be suspicious if you can’t find information like a physical address, phone number or email address. When you make a purchase, take a screenshot of the order page and save it for your records.

* Only do business with websites that have put security measures in place to protect customers from hacking and other types of Internet fraud. Look for the lock symbol on the bottom of the page and “https” in the url of the checkout page.

* When typing a Web address into your browser, double and triple check to ensure you’ve typed it correctly. Identity thieves have been known to create fake sites for commonly mistaken Web addresses to scam consumers into thinking they’re placing an order with their favorite website.

* Use a credit card, rather than a debit card, for online purchases. Debit cards link directly to your bank account. Credit cards come with an extra layer of protection.

After the holidays and all year round

When the holidays are over, it’s no time to let your guard down. Continue to check your bank and credit card statements every month. Consider enrolling in an identity protection product. ProtectMyID helps members detect, protect against and resolve identity theft.

After you’ve checked your statements and paid your bills, shred them before throwing them away. “Dumpster diving” – going through your trash to look for personal identifying information – is a prime method of operation for identity thieves.

Finally, review your credit report regularly, not just once a year when it’s free. By monitoring your credit report, you’ll be better able to detect unauthorized activity.

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