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Protect Yourself From Identity Theft Around The Holidays

1.  Safeguard Your Belongings.  Crowded sidewalks and busy department stores are the perfect places for pickpockets and purse snatchers.  While you're busy buying presents, crooks are looking for the right opportunity to grab your handbag or wallet.  And most of the time, you'll never know until it's too late.  Tips - Women should not leave their purses open or unattended.  carry purses with short straps and hold on to them securely.  Consider taking just one credit card and picture ID in your front pants pocket or waist purse.  Men should not carry their wallets in their back pants pocket.  BE ALERT!  Don't let yourself be too easily distracted by the festive decorations.  It takes a professional just a few seconds to make off with your personal items. 

2.  Going to the ATM.  Like most shoppers, you'll probably make more than one trip to the ATM for cash this holiday season.  Unfortunately so will sharp-eyed crooks.  While you're getting cash, they'll be trying to catch a glimpse of your PIN number over your shoulder.  Also, be wary of the machine itself.  It may contain a device that captures the details of your transaction, a practice called "skimming."  Tips - Use your body to shield your ATM transactions.  Don't be afraid to ask someone to step back or face away while you do your business.  Look for bright lighting and well lit machines.  If you see an odd-looking gadget attached to your ATM, try another machine and notify authorities. 

3.  Retaining Receipts.  Over the holiday, you'll probably accumulate lots of credit card receipts, often stapled to your shopping bags by diligent store clerks or included in with your purchases.  Unfortunately, this makes it quite easy for others to discreetly snatch them off as you walk by or take your package putting your receipt in the hands of a crook.  Criminals have also been known to rummage through trash looking for anything with personal information on it.  So, just because your information is in the trash doesn't mean it is safe.  Tips - Keep all receipts together in a safe place as you're shopping.  Either shred or tear up unwanted receipts at home. 

4.  Use the Internet Wisely.  Like lots of people, you may take care of some of that holiday shopping online.  but websites often leave personal information and financial data on the hard drive after a transaction.  Avoid making holiday purchases from shared computers like at the public library.  Many tech-savvy thieves use viruses and spyware capable of grabbing account numbers and passwords right off your computer.  Tips - Install reliable virus protection and anti-spyware on your PC and keep it updated with the latest virus information.  Never open a suspicious-looking email - delete them immediately.  Always use secure web servers for online shopping  Look for URLs that display "https" instead of "http."  When using free WiFi, be aware of unsecured connections.  you're information may be visible to others.  throwing away an old computer?  Erase the hard drive first.

5.  Giving to Charities.  The holidays bring out a generous spirit.  Many charities use this time to solicit telephone donations.  While giving is good, just be careful.  After all, you only want you money going to a reputable organization, not the fake fund of someone looking to make a dishonest buck.  Tips - Never give out your personal or financial information over the phone.  Contact a charity directly to make a donation. 

Happy Holidays!


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