Saturday, December 8, 2007

Online and offline habits may make consumers susceptible to identity thieves

Out shopping with a bag full of receipts? Piles of special end-of year credit card promotions filling your mailbox? Leaving home on vacation? All of these situations provide a prime opportunity for identity thieves to strike.

Rick Kam, president of identity theft protection and personal identity recovery company ID Safeguards, warns, "The holiday season is ripe for identity thieves to do their dirty work, and whether you realize it or not, you may be helping them. By taking a few simple steps, you can protect yourself from the efforts of fraudsters."

By following a few simple online and offline tips, consumers can decrease the odds of becoming a victim this holiday. Top tips for protecting yourself are:

-- Keep your whereabouts online a mystery: Your e-mail message should NOT
state you are on vacation, nor should you state on your blog or social
networking site that you are going out of town. Instead, say you are
out of the office spending time with family or you are going to take a
rest from your blog updates during the holiday.

-- New Year, New Passwords: Out with the old and in with the new. Make it
your yearly time to give new passwords to your online accounts.

-- Watch for the double swipe: Don't let yourself get distracted while
checking out. Sales assistants have been known to use devices called
skimmers to quickly swipe customer credit card numbers.

-- Shop, save and compare: Save all your online and physical shopping
receipts. As much as you don't want to look at those credit card
statements after the holidays, make sure they match your receipts. Call
your credit card company to report any unfamiliar purchases.

-- Going to Grandma's? Prepare your home: Place a hold on your mail with
the post office and stop newspaper delivery. A full mailbox is a gold
mine of information for identity thieves and a pile of newspapers
signals that your home is vacant.

-- Shop with one: Use only one credit card this season and store the rest.
Debit cards should never be used for online shopping as it provides
online thieves with direct access to your bank account.

-- When in doubt, keep it personal: You should only buy from known and
reputable sources on the Internet. You would never give a stranger on
the street your credit card information. Practice the same logic

To learn more about current identity theft issues, visit the company blog at

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