Holiday shoppers warned of identity thieves
While you're busy shopping for that perfect holiday gift, criminals are also searching for a one-of-a-kind item -- your identity. Holiday shoppers should take special care to protect their identities from thieves, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). The increased spending during the holiday season provides more opportunities for criminals to steal your identity.
Here are some tips to protect your hard-earned money this holiday season:
Keep the amount of personal information in your purse or wallet to the bare minimum. Avoid carrying additional credit cards, your social security card, or a passport, unless absolutely necessary.
Guard your credit card when making purchases. Shield your hand when using ATM machines or making long distance phone calls with phone cards. Don't fall prey to "shoulder surfers" who may be nearby.
Take credit card or ATM receipts. Although complete numbers are no longer printed on receipts, it's still a good habit not to throw them into public trash containers, leave them on the counter, or put them in your shopping bag where they can easily fall out or get stolen.
Proceed with caution when shopping online. Make sure that you are buying from a reputable retailer with a secure network.
Monitor your accounts. Don't rely on your credit card company or bank to alert you of suspicious activity. Carefully monitor your bank and credit card statements to make sure all transactions are accurate.
Shred, shred, shred. Tear or shred any documents that have personal information such as credit card numbers, bank statements, charge receipts, or credit card applications, before disposing of them.
If you are the victim of a crime, report it to the store and police immediately. Ask for a copy of the police report. You will need it if you want to file an insurance claim or report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission for their assistance. Victims of identity fraud can contact the FTC at 877-IDTHEFT or www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
Theft of personal possessions is generally covered by homeowners and renters insurance policies; however, depending upon your situation, you also may want to consider obtaining identity theft insurance.
The policy provides reimbursement to crime victims for the cost of restoring their identity and repairing credit reports.
Identity theft insurance generally covers expenses such as phone bills, lost wages, notary and certified mailing costs, and sometimes attorney fees (with the prior consent of the insurer).