How to avoid identity theft during the holidays

November 10, 2009 – 5:20 pm

badsanta There’s no crime like ID theft during the holidays and nothing can ruin your holiday cheer faster than finding out you’ve been a victim of identity theft. During the holiday season people give generously — our time, our money and our credit cards.

We charge up a bundle in department stores (and shoot our credit card numbers across unsecure store wireless networks). We carelessly throw away our receipts or keep them in bad places (where the casual holiday party acquaintance or dumpster diver can easily obtain them). We write checks to charities (and hand them to unknown people at your door our ringing bells outside supermarkets). With activities like these it’s no wonder identity thieves love this time of year.

This year, make sure you practice safe spending. There are a few good ways to minimize your identity theft chances but most involve destroying bad habits. First, try paying for your holiday purchases in cash. The only identity information people can pull from cash are likenesses of dead Presidents. Cash eliminates some of the holiday’s nastiest consequences like debt and credit and check fraud. Of course it’s extremely hard to give up the plastic — especially during this time of year.

Pay attention to your receipts. Most people have a casual relationship with their receipts. You’ll either throw them away outright or do so after balancing your checkbook. Receipts should be destroyed at every opportunity. Have you ever looked at all of the information printed on a receipt. Take a close look and then shred, shred, shred.

Finally, keep a close eye on your credit and bank statements. Report any suspicious purchases immediately to your institution so they can stop payment on them and issue you a new credit or debit card. Also place fraud alerts on your credit reports so you’re notified of any future attempts to damage your credit.

Good luck and happy holidays!

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