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 because it’s prime time for thieves to do their “shopping,” too. And your credit card numbers are not at the top of their wish list.
Your personal data is sold 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 that are as good as gold to thieves.
The consequences to your credit scores and your good name can be devastating.
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.
Use these tips to guard against identity theft year round:
- Share your social security number only when necessary. It’s legally required in some situations, but always ask why it’s needed and how it will be protected!
- Choose credit over debit when shopping with plastic. When your debit card is breached, your account can be drained 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 email appearing to be from a legitimate organization, retailer or government agency that prompts you to open an attachment 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. Be cautious about links, use security software, and don’t use public Wi-Fi when sharing personal or financial data.
- Use complex passwords. Don’t get complacent. Longer is better with a random mix of numbers, letters and special characters. Be sure to create a unique password for each site.
- Don’t toss it, shred it! Documents containing any piece of your financial, credit, personal or medical data should be shredded before they hit the curb. Thieves will dig through trash to find treasure.
- Monitor your credit activity. Regular reviews of all three of your credit reports for suspicious changes is one way to catch identity theft early.