'Tis the season for holiday shopping, but it's also the season for holiday thievery. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) in San Diego, Calif., estimates that 15 million people are victims of identity theft every year. The not-for-profit group reports that it gets more calls about lost and stolen wallets and purses during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. To make sure identity theft does not spoil your holidays, the ITRC has several tips for safeguarding your personal data.
- Never share your social security or credit card numbers in a public environment. Instead of verbally sharing requested sensitive information, write it down for the clerk, then take the slip of paper home with you. Also when talking on your cell phone in public, don't give any personal information over the phone.
- Keep store receipts in your wallet, not inside the bag with your purchase.
- Carry only what you need when shopping, and make sure to keep purses, backpacks and bags zipped or fastened shut to deter pickpockets.
- Use debit cards judiciously or leave them at home - they are a direct link to your bank account. By using credit cards instead, you can review the billing statement afterward and dispute any suspected fraudulent activity.
- When shopping online, print out the Web page describing the item(s) you ordered, as well as any e-mail messages and contact information for the online seller. Do a Google search on the seller regarding complaints. Call the seller direct and make sure there is actually someone who will answer the phone.
- Do not provide your social security number, birth date or mother's maiden name in an e-mail or within a Web site.
- Make sure the latest anti-virus software is installed on your computer before shopping online.
I hope this helps keep your Holidays safe. I look forward to networking with each and every one of you in the coming year. Peace be with you.