Tis the Season: How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft during the Holidays

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identity-theft-shredderThe holiday spirit seems to conjure up the criminal spirit too, as the holidays often see a spike in the amount of identity theft, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. With more people shopping online, the increased pool of victims seems to lure out identity thieves right along with those out for a shopping spree. Since you are at more risk during the holiday season than you are at other times of the year, take some necessary precautions to further protect your identity, your credit and your money.

Guard Your Credit Cards

The plastic seems to fly out more than usual as a way to make holiday purchases. While there are advantages to using credit cards, doing so also increases the chances that your credit card information may land in the wrong hands. If you’re shopping online, make sure that you’re checking out on a secure server. This is often indicated on the site with the letters SSL or with a verification badge, such as Verisign, that authenticates it is a safe site. A secure site scrambles your credit card information when it is transmitted from the shopping cart of the website to the credit card processor. This prohibits a thief from reading and fraudulently using your credit card information.

If you’re shopping online, check in with your bank to see if it offers a one-time-use credit card number that you can plug in when you’re making a purchase. This helpful tool prevents identity theft since the digits can only be used once. If you’re shopping offline, pay with cash instead, if you can. This saves your information from being stolen and eliminates the heart attack that can come with the credit card statement after the holidays are over.

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Shred and Destroy

During the holiday rush, it is also easy to lose track of important information or discard this information without giving it much thought. Avoid throwing away credit card receipts, packing slips and bill statements that contain your name, address, credit card information and other personal information that thieves can use to commit identity fraud. Believe it or not, one of the primary ways thieves get your information is by “dumpster diving,” which essentially equates to plucking this information out of your trash. With but a few pieces of your information, a savvy thief can piece together enough data to apply for new credit in your name or fraudulently use your existing information to spend your money. Shred, cut up and tear any papers that contain any of your personal information.

Monitor Activity

When your credit card or bank statements come in the mail or land in your email inbox, review them line-by-line. Make sure there are no charges or purchases that you do not recognize. Better yet, sign onto your credit card or bank accounts online and review your purchases at least once a week. If you notice any unusual activity, contact the credit card issuer or your bank immediately. The faster you react to identity theft, the better your chances are of stopping it and preventing any further damage.

While identity theft may not be completely unstoppable, there are some simple steps you can take during the holiday season to further protect yourself from falling prey. Shop safely with your credit cards or use cash, shred and destroy any receipts, packing slips or bills that contain personal information, and carefully monitor your statement activity. These three simple steps can go a long way in keeping the identity thieves away.

For 24/7 peace of mind, sign up for an identity theft protection service like the one offered by Quizzle.com. Comprehensive identity protection will keep a look out for personal information that may put you at risk, monitor your credit report for important changes that can affect your credit score, help you restore your good name in the event your identity is stolen and cover all expenses that you incur if fraud takes place.

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