Protect Your Identity
By Kylie Cooper
The holidays are here, meaning parties and gatherings, shopping and gift exchanges—and increased opportunity for identity theft. Those who make their living scamming others find greater opportunity this time of year, knowing shoppers are out using credit and debit cards more frequently both in stores and online and pulling out cash at ATMs all while being busy and more distracted.
When someone successfully steals your personal information, it can be used in a variety of ways including running up charges on your credit cards or even opening new cards, stealing money from your bank account, or accessing your health insurance to receive medical treatment.
So when you’re shopping this holiday season, be extra vigilant in guarding your personal information.
· Make sure your wallet is secure at all times
· Don’t place your credit or debit card on a checkout counter where someone could snap a photo
· Cover card readers when entering your pin
· Be aware of skimming devices and cautious when using ATMs, particularly if it appears to have been tampered with
· Stick with verified retailer websites while shopping online—don’t get fooled into clicking on links or going to bargain websites you’re not familiar with
· Always look for the lock symbol at the top of the web page before entering your payment information
One resource for identity theft victims is the Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov website where you’ll find everything from tips on how to spot identity theft and what to do if your info is lost or stolen to actually helping you create a recovery plan with sample letters and helpful contact information.
According to the FTC, here are a few of the key warning signs your information may have been stolen.
· You see withdrawals from your bank account you can’t explain.
· You don’t get your bills or other mail.
· Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
· You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
· Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
· You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.
If you are a victim, go to the IdentityTheft.gov website where you can create a theft report and develop a recovery plan for the specific type of fraud you encountered.
Here’s wishing you and yours a happy—and safe—holiday season!
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