December 17, 2007

Protect Your Identity

During the holiday season most people are running around in malls, or scourging the web for the best deals on gifts. It is a time of happiness, joy, consumer spending and identity theft. Nothing ruins a new year like a stolen identity, so here are some ways to protect yourself during this holiday season.

  1. If you are shopping online, try to stick with reputable vendors. Deals that look too good to be true, probably are, and while it is ok to buy from smaller companies, do some research on them if you aren't sure. Check sites like the BBB to see if the company has a good reputation before making your purchase.

  2. Use a temporary Credit Card number when making online orders. My credit cards all offer single use temporary numbers that I can use when making online orders. Every time I need one, I just go to their web site and get one. no problem.

  3. Use credit cards when shopping online instead of services that directly withdraw from your bank account. Using a credit card gives you protection against fraud and the backing of a large bank if you need assistance in resolving issues. It is much harder to get money back from companies once they have it, using a credit card means they have the credit companies money, not yours, and give you a better chance.

  4. Pay attention to your bank and credit card statements. Check your statements closely for charges you didn't make. During times when you are making a lot of purchases from multiple different places, it is easy to overlook a purchase you didn't make, especially if it is relatively small.

  5. Shred mail with personal information. Credit card offers, bank statements, and utility bills all have varying degrees of personal information. Shred them before you throw them away, and if you need to keep them, you should have a locking file cabinet to keep them in. (Locking file cabinets go on sale for as little as 30 dollars at Wal-Mart, and while they are not the best quality, they are much better than nothing)

  6. Don't leave your purse sitting in a shopping cart as you wander around. My Girlfriend does this when I am with her because she expects me to stay by the cart and if I wander off (which I do often since I HATE shopping) it gets left alone. Keep your bag within arms reach at all times.

  7. Don't leave valuables in your car. Why does this protect your identity? Because you also keep your registration in your car and that has your name and address on it. Don't tempt people to break in to your car, because once they are in they may decide to take a lot more than that new TV or stereo you just bought.

  8. Pay attention to your cashiers, and try to avoid handing your credit cards to people. Most stores no longer require you to give your card t a cashier to swipe, and have the equipment for you to do it on your own, but if you must hand over your card, pay attention to what they are doing. In a place I worked last Christmas, one of the cashiers stole some credit card numbers and was only caught because she was dumb enough to use them in the store we worked in and used her employee account to get her discount. So pay attention to the cashier or anyone handling your card, be sure they aren't copying any info down or taking a picture of it.

  9. Make sure you get your card back. Every day I get calls from people who leave their cards at the store I work in. We have dozens of these cards at any given time (we would have hundreds but company policy is to destroy them if not claimed within 48 hours) so make sure you get it back if you give it to a cashier to swipe.

  10. If you lose a credit/debit card, report it ASAP. Get the card suspended if you think you just misplaced it, cancel it if you think it got left behind or stolen. It just isn't worth the risk to wait a few days.
These tips can, and should be followed all year, but are especially important during the holidays. Have fun this holiday season, but please keep yourself and your identity safe.

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