The holiday season ushers in all types of shoppers – including those on the hunt for your most valuable personal information! December was chosen as National Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month as it’s prime time for identity thieves to do their “shopping,” too.
Your personal data is shopped on the black market to commit ongoing identity theft.
Your name, address, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, bank account numbers and passwords are as good as gold to thieves.
The consequences of identity theft to your credit scores and your good name can be devastating.
Identity thieves can max out your credit, open new accounts in your name, drain your bank accounts, steal your tax refund – and even get medical treatment on your health insurance.
Tips to guard against identity theft year round:
Share your social security number only when necessary.
While it’s legally required in some situations, you should always ask why it’s needed and how it will be protected!
Choose credit over debit when shopping with plastic.
Identity thieves can breach your debit card and drain your account in an instant.
Use only bank-affiliated ATM’s.
Generic (non-bank) ATM’s (gas stations and convenience stores) are choice targets for identity thieves using card readers, or skimmers.
Don’t overshare when out of town.
Don’t give a play-by-play of your travels on social media. Identity thieves will gladly make themselves at home with your personal information.
Be wary of email attachments.
Any unsolicited email that prompts you to open an attachment, even if it looks legit, is a big red flag. It’s likely a phishing scam to access your information. Delete the email immediately!
Protect your mobile devices .
Your smartphone or tablet is just as vulnerable to attack as your PC. Don’t use public Wi-Fi when sharing personal or financial data. Be cautious about links and use security software.
Use complex passwords.
Don’t get lazy. Create a unique password for each site. Longer is better with a random mix of numbers, letters and special characters.
Don’t toss it, shred it!
Shred any documents containing your financial, credit, personal or medical data before they hit the curb. Thieves will dig through trash to find treasure.
Monitor your credit activity.
Regularly review your TransUnion, Equifax and Experian credit reports for suspicious changes to catch identity theft early.