The holidays are a time of greater risk for identity theft. You are using your credit cards and debit cards more often, companies use significantly more temporary workers (who may or may not have had background checks) and many people make purchases from online companies they have never heard of before.
Here are a few key things to keep in mind to help you avoid what can be a catastrophic event should your identity be compromised:
- Know the company you are purchasing from. If you haven’t heard of them before, check for registration with Better Business Bureau. Look them up online to check for any reviews or complaints.
- Never click on popup ads. Think of them the same way you deal with unsolicited phone calls. You don’t know where they are originated from, so don’t have anything to do with them!
- Keep all your software up to date to be sure that you have the most recent security updates.
- This is pretty obvious: use strong passwords. That means don’t use addresses, birthdays, simply sequences like 5678, etc. (The best passwords have a combination of letters, numbers, symbols.)
- Use a secure connection. That means avoid public Wi-Fi connections at coffee shops, libraries, etc. That also means that you want to be accessing a secure site; look for https (not http) and the lock icon on the browser
- We know this is a recommendation that may not be easy for many, but don’t use your debit card or checks for your holiday transactions because these forms of payment are directly linked to your bank account. Credit cards are not linked so any fraud activity will not drain your funds. Also, credit cards typically have a longer window to report fraud.
Phone and In-store
- Carry only essential information with you (not every credit card you have, never your social security card. You get the idea.) And make sure you keep a record of each card you carry with you so if your wallet or purse is stolen, you know the cards and their numbers to report the theft and cancel the cards.
- Never give out personal information of the phone unless YOU initiated the call to a company you know. There is always an increase in fraud during the holidays and that includes phone scams.
- If you have anyone standing very close while you are completing a transaction, politely ask the person to step back. (checkout counters, ATMs, etc.)
Be vigilant: Monitor Your Statements
- Check your account statements EVERY MONTH (credit cards and bank statements.) The minute you find any discrepancy, call your card company, store (if you used a store credit card) or bank and report the suspected fraud. (By the way, you should always be printing out the online order confirmations and saving the email confirmations from any online orders.)
Homeowner policies do offer low cost endorsements that will provide coverage for identity fraud expense coverage (i.e. expenses incurred by an insured as the direct result of any one loss resulting from identity fraud.) The levels and specific aspects of coverage vary by insurance company so give us a call and we can explain what is available to you depending on your homeowner insurance provider.
Stay tuned. In our next blog post, we’ll outline what to do if you find you are a victim of identity theft.
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