Your own shopping compulsions versus a limited budget isn’t the only threat during the holiday shopping season. Use of your credit cards can really increase during this time of year. Without thinking you could be falling into habits that put your entire financial persona in jeopardy.
1. Be assertive. Don’t be afraid to disagree, say no, or ask questions. If you are in a shop and the clerk want to take your plastic into the back room, speak up. You shouldn’t let that little piece of plastic out of your sight. If you have to keep other people waiting do so. They also know you are in a rush too. Fraudsters use crowds to mask their efforts and human emotions to force their efforts.
2. Watch where you swipe. ATMs are extreme risky during the holidays. Fraudsters use a device called a skimmer to grab account numbers and PINs from a single card swipe. The skimmer can be placed on top of or within the original reader, thereby intercepting the digits or it can be placed in a separate location on the ATM in hopes a customer accidentally swipes there instead. If you need cash, the best practice is to avoid mall ATMs and go inside your bank to get the funds.
3. Avoid giving. At lease right then and there. Any charity that wants your info and donation right then and there should be avoided. Don’t listen to the pleas. Any time you are going to give money away, there should be some research on the organization and where your money is going to actually go. The last thing you want to do is get surprised because you claimed a “fake” charitable donation on your taxes.
5. Beware of your surroundings & destroy everything. The two go hand in hand. Shoulder surfing and dumpster diving are still threats. People around you at the mall can probably heard you opening that new line of credit to cover your holiday expenses. Protect vital information from wandering eyes and ears. Write it down instead of verbally exchanging it. Afterwards take the slip with you and destroy it. Dumpster diving is still the easiest way for a low tech criminal to get hands on your personal info and steal your identity. Destroy/shred all these documents, especially those pre-approved lines of credit apps that come in the mail.
Follow these rules, and hopefully you will not become one of the 10 million who fall victim to identity theft every year. Also, remember less is more. Don’t leave the house with more cards or information than you absolutely need. It’s very important to watch your statements year-round, but this time of year you will be doing more spending than usual. So it stands to reason that more attention should be paid.
By Jon Ryan of ProtectIdentity.com, a blog hoping to spread awareness and provide identity theft protection tips.