With the growing use of technology and online services, more and more Americans are relying on the new mediums for holiday shopping. What was once a visit to your local retailer has now become an evolution to almost-complete reliance on online retailers. With this comes comfort, convenience, but also risk associated with your Social Security number, credit card numbers or PIN numbers, as well as other sensitive information.
While you’re busy being Santa Claus this year, pay attention to a few tips to ward off those suspect individuals who may attempt to be the Grinch. Do not be a victim to identity theft this year.
Tip 1: Do not provide your Social Security Number unless you can verify the source, and deem it necessary to be provided. Every year, people seemingly provide their SS Number without having to. Always feel free to ask why the source needs your SS Number.
Tip 2: Do not have your SS Number or Driver’s License Number printed on your personal checks. If a retailer needs them, they can ask for them. Do not provide them, since this may open you up to the world of information abuse and identity theft.
Tip 3: Make copies of your credit cards—front and back. Then place them in a secure location. Should your items be misplaced or stolen, you will have copies on hand for verification purposes, or to simply close out accounts.
Tip 4: Pick your mail up each and every single day. Leaving your mail items lingering may open you up to risk that is unnecessary. Do not allow your information to float around—even in a mailbox—for longer than absolutely necessary.
Tip 5: If you receive emails asking for sensitive information, verify…verify…verify. Unscrupulous thieves will send out fake emails or messages that look secure/encrypted, which may ask for you to provide information such as your SS Number and account information. Verify with the source. Sometimes, the actual URLs are even modified to appear as though they are from a legitimate source. But beware that this is trick used by people to fish for information. Most legitimate sources never ask for this information via email or messages.
Tip 6: Do not use your shared wi-fi that’s not secure or protected for financial transactions that may use your private information. This seems like a no-brainer, but surprisingly is a common means of compromised private information.
Tip 7: Check your monthly statements. Always scan your transactions against receipts to ensure they are valid.
If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
1. Contact your financial institutions, including credit card companies, to let them know. They will cancel the accounts and open up an investigation.
3. Contact the credit reporting agencies:
Equifax 800-685-1111 or www.equifax.com
TransUnion 800-888-4213 or www.transunion.com
Experian 888-397-3742 or www.experian.com