Protect your ID

Identity theft a big problem during holidays, so be extra careful
Nov. 28, 2012 @ 12:12 AM

The holiday season may be a time for fun and family, but it’s also when criminals like to pursue their craft. Identity theft affects millions of consumers, and the Christmas shopping season is when the misfits like to strike.

December is Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month and, according to the Federal Trade Commission, it is also the time of year when most identity crime occurs. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Identity Crimes Unit warns consumers to beware of ID thieves while shopping, either in person or online. Take precautions to protect your identity during the holidays.

The Identity Crimes Unit offers these tips:

- When paying by credit card, don’t allow clerks to put your receipts in your bag. Instead, carry receipts in your wallet where they are safer and less likely to fall out of bags.

- Watch cashiers, waiters, and bartenders, ensuring that they don’t “skim” or save your card number for later use.

- When paying by check, never allow merchants to write your social security number on the check.

- Use a gel ink pen — preferably black — to write checks. The ink will permeate the fibers and make it difficult for the check to be cleaned and reused.

- When shopping online, be careful of wireless Internet connections. Only use those that require a security key or certificate.

- Shop on secure, reputable websites by looking for addresses that start with “https” and include a small padlock icon.

- Never offer personal information, especially your social security number, to online stores.

- Leave suspicious websites immediately.

- Read customer reviews before ordering products.

- Use a credit card and not a debit card, which makes it harder for you to get funds back and gives thieves access to funds in your bank account.

- Avoid carrying a social security card, birth certificate, passport, bank information or paychecks when hitting the stores. You could easily lose them and identity thieves find these particularly helpful.

- Check your bank statements, credit card bills, and credit reports often, helping to quickly catch any efforts to use your identity.

According to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 11.6 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2011, an increase of 13 percent over 2010. Last year, for the 12th year in a row, identity theft topped the list of consumer complaints to the FTC. Of the more than 1.8 million complaints filed with the FTC in 2011, 15 percent were related to identity theft.

Bring extra careful and cautious should ensure a pleasant holiday shopping experience. These days, though, you can’t let your guard down even for a moment