For many Americans, December is the most festive time of year—full of generosity, celebration and good cheer. It’s also prime time for identity theft, which is why December is Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month. In this blog, we offer several tips to help you keep identity theft scrooges at bay.
1. Think Before You Swipe
Identity thieves have a deep bag of tricks, and “skimmers” are one of them. Gas station credit card readers and stand-alone ATMs are sometimes compromised with skimmers. Attached to gas pump payment terminals and stand-alone ATMs, these devices are designed to steal data from your credit card’s magnetic strip when you swipe. Skimmers are very hard to spot, as thieves design them to look and feel legitimate. When buying gas, consider paying inside instead of at the pump. And withdrawing cash at your bank’s drive-up window is safer than using an ATM, so try to plan ahead.
2. Stay on Top of Your Mail
December is the prime month for mailing gifts and receiving home deliveries, which means it’s also open season for mail theft. Delivered packages can sit for hours or days on front porches and mailboxes are often stuffed with outgoing letters, cards, and bill payments.
Know your mail delivery schedule and track incoming package deliveries so you can promptly retrieve your packages. If you won’t be at home, instruct your delivery provider to leave packages on the back porch or with a neighbor. Don’t leave greeting cards with checks in your mailbox for your carrier to retrieve. Drop them off at your local post office instead. When possible, avoid putting bill payments in the mail to begin with. Instead, pay your bills online. Most service providers have secure electronic payment systems; sign up for them.
3. Make Online Purchases at Home
One of conveniences we enjoy is being able to buy something online—anytime, from anywhere. But this convenience comes at a cost. Free, public WiFi hotspots are often unencrypted, which makes it easy for a criminal to steal your credit card data while you’re making online purchases. Wait until you get home to buy your holiday gifts from your secure home network. Otherwise, only connect to a free, public Wi-Fi hotspot if you have a virtual private network (VPN) installed on your device.
4. Keep a Close Eye on Your Devices
Identity thieves don’t only lurk online. Stay aware of your surroundings when at crowded airports and malls during the holiday season. Pickpockets capitalize on distracted shoppers and travelers. Store your wallet, smart phone, laptop and passport securely in your pocket or bag.
5. Watch Your Credit Activity
You should monitor your credit activity year-round, but especially in December. The more you swipe, the more your data is at risk of being stolen. You’re entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. If you haven’t requested one this year, act now.
6. Shred Your Documents
Every receipt, bank statement, and shipping label with your name and address that lands in the trash increases your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. Shred any piece of mail that has sensitive personal or financial information on it.
Wishing you and your family a safe and secure holiday!
Land Shark Shredding offers NAID AAA Certified shredding and destruction services in Bowling Green and throughout southwest Kentucky. For more information, please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.