Identity Theft: Protect Yourself this Holiday Season

Identity Theft
Identity thieves work year-round, but they’re especially busy as the holiday season approaches. As in-store and online sales heat up, these criminals are afforded many more opportunities to steal your identity and empty your bank account. By taking just a few simple precautions to stop identity theft in its tracks, you can sail into the New Year with your reputation and your money intact.

In-Store Shopping
  • Use cash instead of checks or credit cards for in-store purchases. That leaves you vulnerable to pickpockets, but at least your liability will be limited to the amount of money you’re carrying and not everything you have in your bank accounts.
  • When carrying cash, stash it in purses or wallets that have a zipper or other secure closures. Sling your purse over your body instead of just your shoulder to make it more difficult for thieves to grab it.
  • Avoid swiping credit or debit cards at gas pumps or self-pay restaurants, as identity thieves often use devices called “skimmers” to steal credit card information. Shield the screen at the ATM machine when taking out cash or checking your balance so that others can’t see your pin number or bank balance.
  • Don’t carry anything in your wallet that you won’t need during your shopping trip. Leave unused credit and debit cards at home, and never store important documents such as a birth certificate or social security card in your wallet.
Online Shopping
  • Look for a lock icon or web address that begins with https: before entering personal information or credit card numbers when shopping online. These indicate that the vendor has taken precautions to encrypt the information so it’s more difficult for thieves to steal.
  • Use a prepaid Visa or Mastercard for online transactions. Just like using cash for in-store purchases, it limits your liability to the amount you have loaded onto the card.
  • Don’t store address and billing information on retailer websites, as it leaves your personal information vulnerable if the website is hacked.
  • Use strong passwords that contain a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special symbols for any site that requires a login, especially your online banking.
If you need to file an insurance claim due to damage to your home or automobile, or if you would just like to review your current policy, contact Northeast Metro-West Insurance Agency today at (800) 443-7007.