Protect Your Identity This Holiday Season

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It seems that no sooner do we finish chowing down on Thanksgiving, it’s time to shop. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are days in which retailers hope to boost their profits and bring in shoppers eager for a holiday deal.

Retailers aren’t the only ones who are enjoying the peak shopping season, however. Identity thieves and hacking syndicates look to the holiday season as their busy season, too. Major breaches such as the Target data breach in 2014 reminded us that identity thieves are no longer wannabe hackers hoping to get a few social security numbers; they’re now major syndicates who use sophisticated methods for obtaining our sensitive information.

Here are a few reminders for protecting your sensitive financial and personal information as you head out for some holiday shopping:

Shred any documents that contain your personal information such as bank statements, utility bills, credit card bills. Less sophisticated identity thieves will dumpster dive for documents that contain financial and personal information. If it has your name on it, shred it.

If you receive an email, phone call or text requesting your personal information, don’t respond. Identity thieves now rely on phishing, vishing, and smishing to trick unsuspecting consumers into handing over their personal information. The email, phone call or text will instruct you to click on your “bank’s” link and to fill out an online form. Don’t fall for it. 

Scammers posing as the IRS will also resort to the same tactics. When in doubt, call the bank or IRS directly yourself.

Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you are placing a telephone order yourself.  If you receive a phone call from a charity soliciting donations over the phone, better safe than sorry and hang up. If you can’t resist the tug on your heartstrings, tell the caller you’ll be more than happy to donate once you receive further information from them in the mail. Follow up on a site such as Charity Navigator to verify if the agency is legitimate before handing over a donation.

Use judgement when donating to a door-to-door collector or a storefront collector. While there’s nothing wrong with handing over some cash if the  spirit should move you, be leery of an organization that insist on donations via credit card or electronic transfer.

Next time: What you need to do if you’re the victim of identity theft.

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