It's that time of the season and identity thieves are ready to strike and take advantage of holiday shoppers and businesses. December is National Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month. Here are some tips to protect your identity during the holiday season.
- Carry Only What You Need. Some of us have a tendency to carry all of our credit cards in our purses or wallets in addition to our social security card. This might seem convenient, but it's the perfect set up for identity theft. Keep the number of items you carry to a bare minimum. Never carry your social security card or anything that may have your social security number on it with you unless you will need it.
- Take Precautions Online. There is a relatively new form of identity theft on the rise called formjacking. Formjacking involves cyber criminals hijacking credit card information from online forms. Making purchases, paying bills, and filing taxes online is common today. Here's a few steps you can take to boost your privacy and help in preventing fraud:
- Keep your softare up-to-date.
- Never install unidentified software.
- Download only from trusted sites.
- Always use up-to-date anti-spyware and anti-virus software, and run weekly scans.
- Use firewalls on your network.
- Regularly update passwords/passphrases, and make each one unique and challenging to crack.
- Take Swift Action When Documents Go Missing. If you notice that important financial items or documents such as credit/debit cards, drivers licenses or loan agreements have gone missing, you will need to act fast to contact every organization or creditor that issued them. Here are important action steps if you feel your identity has been compromised:
- Pull credit reports from annualcreditreport.com and review them for suspicious activity.
- Close any accounts that you believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- Place a "fraud alert" on your credit reports, and check your credit reports regularly.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- File a report with the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
Identity theft is a serious crime. It can be a time-consuming and costly process that seriously affects your life, so be vigilant and take precautions.