The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the biggest shopping time of the year. As we enter the season of giving, there is one thing we should be stingy with—protecting our identities!
Holiday madness, crazed shoppers, and packed malls are part of the Christmas season. While we are bustling from store to store, and website to website, trying to complete everyone’s holiday list—thieves and scammers are taking our distraction as a signal to strike. This is the easiest time of year for thieves to steal wallets, break into houses, and profit financially from the season of giving—without victims detecting it for a long time.
Don’t trust your email. There are so many holiday scams by email, you should read everything with an enormous grain of salt. If someone is promising you something for nothing (free gift, free money, etc.), don’t buy it.
Protect your home. Your greatest risk during the busyness, is all of the extra people that come into your home. It makes it very easy to pocket a checkbook that’s on your desk, or a brokerage statement in your filing cabinet. Lock it up, especially during the holidays!
Use your credit card. Don’t use checks, and don’t use a debit card. They don’t give you nearly as much protection.
Carry less in your wallet. It is too easy to steal a purse that is sitting at your feet as you pay or have lunch. The best advice is to take your driver’s license and one or two credit cards with you when shopping.
Watch your statements. Most forms of holiday identity theft can be caught simply by monitoring your checking, debit, and credit card accounts frequently. Even better, sign up for automatic account alerts when any transaction occurs on your account.
Monitor your credit reports.
Shop on secure websites. Make sure that both the https:// and lock symbols appear in your browser.
Be cautious in public. Don’t give your credit card number (or Social Security number) over the phone if someone is within earshot. Shield your PIN when entering it at an ATM or card swipe.
Donate to known charities and only when you have initiated the gift. Don’t respond to phone calls for charity.
Rotate your credit cards. After the busy holiday shopping season is over, call your credit card company and ask them to issue you a new card (you can tell them that you are concerned that your credit card number was stolen).
Don’t advertise travel plans to burglars on social networking sites. Distraction is the worst enemy when it comes to crime and the holidays. In addition to spending more money, we tend to be busier, more stressed out, and less careful than other times of the year. Identity thieves take advantage of this distraction to perform information extraction.