We have all heard of identity theft or fraud and I am willing to assume most of us feel pretty confident that we are using common sense to protect ourselves, right?
Well consider this …
According to Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN), they received 2.5 million complaints in 2014.
We clearly need to be further educated in how to protect ourselves. First, let’s make sure we understand the difference between Identity Theft and Identity Fraud.
Identity Theft is when someone actually pretends to be another person and use their identity. The person whose identity has been assumed may be held responsible for the thief’s actions and therefore suffer adverse consequences Identity theft occurs when someone uses another’s personally identifying information, like their name, or identifying number, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
Identity Fraud occurs when someone steals personal information, opens accounts or credit cards in the victim’s name without their permission, and charges merchandise to those accounts. Simply having your credit card stolen does not indicate identity fraud. Identity fraud is a synonym of unlawful identity change. It indicates someone has used the identity of another person or of a non-existing person in an unlawful manor as a principal tool for obtaining merchandise.
To avoid becoming a part of these statistics, here are some tips to protect you this 2015 Holiday season:
- Prepaid Cards
● Avoid using the cards that are hanging on display or cashier isle for easy access and opt for the stores that keep gift cards out of site and provide upon request, or simply ask the stores that display them if they have cards that are not yet out on display.
- Wire Transfers
● Verify any family or friends calling you asking for money. Hang up and call your friend or relative at their number, not a different number they just provided you. If a company contacts you, simply check the company out by calling your local Better Business Bureau or hang up and call your local company about your account to verify the information. This will most likely avoid the scam and the transfer.
- Cell phone
● Create a screen lock that stays locked even if you get a call or text.
● Delete your cheats! More and more people are storing user names and passwords for multiple accounts on their cell phones for quick reference. We go everywhere with our phones, they can be forgotten or lost anywhere. (I forgot mine at work just last night)
● Log out! We are used to keeping certain accounts open all the time such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, banking apps, etc. Make it a habit to log out each time. It is more of a hassle, but nothing compared to filing out fraud and police reports, so instead look at it as saving you time.
● Your home is your safe haven, and every year we open our doors to friends and family welcoming them to celebrate. As terrible as it is, most complaints verify a family member or friend was the thief. So, don’t leave bills or personal information lying around. Put your bills to be paid or bills paid away. Make sure to put them in a locked or secure place. This includes your purse with wallet and checkbook until after your guests have left.
● Do not answer phone calls from unknown numbers.
- Away from home
● Carry a purse that gives you a side/front firm hold that would make it difficult to grab away by a random passerby.
● Wear pants with a large front pocket for your wallet that would make it difficult to pick pocket.
● Carry only what you need in your wallet or purse. Take out your social security card and the cheat sheet to your family’s socials or other important information.. Leave the rest at home if you can.
● Lock your personal belongings and gifts in your trunk, not just in the back seat floor board covered with something. (Yes, I am guilty too)
● Now is a great time to update your passwords, before Christmas. Instead of thinking of just a single word, think of a sentence and use letters, numbers, and characters. For example: “Not this time” would be “N0tth!$t1m3”
● Do not shop using free or public wifi site locations.
● Use your credit card vs. your debt card for added protection and shop only well-known sites or stores that clearly reflect that the site is secure. An encrypted site has “https” at the beginning of the web address; the “s” stands for secure.
● Don’t post when you are leaving or will be traveling. And if you need to travel for a few days, contact your post office and ask that they hold your mail until you return.
● Do not open or respond to e-mails or texts from unknown senders.
- Credit Cards and Debit Cards
● You can protect your checking account by using your credit card. But it is also a good idea to set up e-mail or text alerts for both your credit cards and debit cards this time of year. Set up alerts that tell you every time a debit has been made and for how much.
● As usual, keep all your receipts until you know the debit has cleared correctly from your account, and longer if you want to track your holiday spending or just keep gift receipts.
● Monitor your credit card and checking statements more closely now than usual, especially if you weren’t getting alerts before. Be diligent about this for several months.
- Credit Report
● To ensure no one has opened any new accounts in your name, in late January 2016 pull your credit reports. www.annualcreditreport.com
Apprisen wishes you a safe and secure holiday this season.