Simple ideas to prevent identity theft during the holidays
Avoid becoming an identity-theft victim with these tips.
December 13, 2013 - Author: Scott Day, Michigan State University Extension
Many people do not understand how easily identity thieves can get hold of our personal data without having to gain access into our homes or places of employment. Coupled with consumers breaking out their credit cards for the upcoming holiday season, identity theft precaution measures should be given some consideration. By becoming more aware and applying a few simple principles you can avoid becoming an increasing statistic that shows that total financial loss attributed to identity theft is up in 2013 ($21 billion) from 2010 ($13.2 billion).
“Identity theft is defined as the unauthorized use or attempted misuse of an existing credit card or other existing account, the misuse of personal information to open a new account or for another fraudulent purpose, or a combination of these types of misuse” according to Identity Theft / Fraud Statistics", 2013. Michigan State University Extension and MI Money Health can offer some recommendations that may help protect your identity and allow for a more stress free holiday season.
Here are some examples of items that should not be carried around with you
Too many credit cards: If your purse or wallet gets lost or stolen and has all of your credit cards, you’ve just multiplied both your misfortune and your exposure.
Social Security card: Identity thieves treasure this more than all else.
Passport: If you’re traveling internationally do not carry it on your person once you get through immigration. Leave it in the hotel safe. If you’re traveling in the U.S. leave it locked up at home, and use your driver’s license instead.
Passwords and Personal Identification numbers: Although most PINs are short, some people still write them down. This is not a good idea, especially if it is your ATM number and your card is with the written down PIN.
Too much cash: A good rule of thumb is to carry only as much cash as you’re willing to lose.
Simple ways you can prevent ID theft
Protect your numbers (SS, credit card): Keep your card locked up at home, and do not write down your number and have it on your person. If some asks for it, ask “Why do you need it?” Don’t use last 4 digits as PIN. Don’t let clerks handwrite it on checks. Don’t have your SSN preprinted on checks.
Protect your mail: If your mailbox has a lock, use it. If mail or bills don’t arrive, call your creditors and ask if they sent a bill.
Opt-out of pre-approved credit offers: This will keep a minimum amount of your personal information from being spread around and criminals may this data and try to activate the cards for use without your knowledge.
Keep your financial “trash” clean: Inspect your financial statements. Throw paperwork that has any financial information on it in a separate bag and that can either shred or burned it later on.
Review your credit report each year: You are entitled to one free report each year from each nationwide credit reporting agency if you ask for it. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com for a free annual report.