protect yourself from identity theft

Protect Yourself From Identity Theft This Holiday Season

As you’re checking your credit card statement online, a knot in your stomach begins to form. You notice a couple of charges from stores you are positive you haven’t been to. You pull out your wallet, ready to call the credit card company to cancel the card and request a new one. We’ve probably all been there at one point or another. Some identity thieves may even open up new credit cards using your information! Knowing how to protect yourself from identity theft is important, and even more so as we head into holiday season. Whether you prefer to do your holiday shopping in person or online, here’s what you need to know about identity theft during the holidays.

Identity theft can happen online AND offline

Identity theft has become more sophisticated in recent years, but it can still happen the old fashioned way too.

Protect Yourself From Identity Theft | Prevention

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? The more vigilant you are as you buzz around looking for holiday deals, the less likely you’ll find yourself canceling credit cards instead of using them! There are a few easy things you can do, from setting up alerts on your phone to being more aware of how you use the internet, that can help prevent identity theft during the holidays.

  • Both eyes on the phone – It’s amazing how integrated technology has become in our lives, which can be a blessing or a curse. Always keep track of your phone, as there is plenty of personal info for the taking if it were to fall into the wrong hands. You can enable a “find your phone” function on both Androids and iPhones that can help you track your device in the event you lose it.
  • Shop only on secured networks – Resist the urge to do any holiday shopping when you’re hooked up to a public WiFi hotspot that isn’t password protected. It’s all too easy for someone to access your information on an open network. If you’re out and about running errands, and find yourself wanting to shop online while you wait, bookmark the items you want to buy for later when you’re back at home.
  • Stick to secure websites – Always be a skeptic when shopping online. Look for secure websites with “https” in the address bar vs. “http”. If you’re shopping on a lesser known site, do a little extra research to make sure they are a reputable seller. Spammy websites pop up all over social media these days that entice shoppers with their products, yet a quick search of the website’s name will show you that many people don’t end up getting their items or have trouble getting refunds on faulty items.
  • Use a virus/malware/spyware program – Protecting your computer with the right software can be an effective way to prevent identity theft. There are many options out there for you to choose from, many of which are free and will do the job well.
  • Shred all documents with personal info – A paper shredder comes in handy when you’re getting a lot of mail that might have personal information inside. Try to resist the urge to throw away junk mail and receipts vs. shredding them to keep your information safe.
  • Be careful with receipts – When you’re at the store, refuse any receipts if you don’t need them, or hang onto them until you get home.
  • Be aware of your surroundings – With all the advances in technology today, most fraud artists won’t be reading your credit card number over your shoulder. It’s better to be safe than sorry though! If you’re on the phone and are pulling your credit card out to give someone the info, be aware of who’s around you to ensure no one is able to see your card or overhear the numbers verbally.

Knowing When Your Info Has Been Compromised

In the event that you do experience identity theft during the holidays, your best line of defense will be knowing what happened as quickly as possible so you can take action. The below steps will make sure you know as soon as any fraudulent charges come through.

  • Check your accounts often – Get yourself into the habit of checking each of your accounts frequently. Logging in more than once a week or so will pay off, as you’ll be able to catch any suspicious activity early. The quicker you’re able to identify fraudulent activity, the better.
  • Set up alerts – If you have your bank and/or credit card holder’s apps on your phone, you can easily set up alerts to notify you of when charges hit your account. You may also have the option of fraud protection, depending on the provider, where charges can be declined if they are deemed suspicious.
  • Monitor your credit report – You can check hard inquiries on your credit report with a monitoring service, like Credit Karma, to see if any new accounts were created using your information.

How to Handle Identity Theft

Prevention is great, but what if your information was already compromised? You’re aware it happened, but now what should you do? Taking the steps below will ensure the charges to your account(s) are taken care of as quickly as possible, and that your new card is shipped out to you ASAP.

  • Contact your bank/credit card holder immediately – Once you spot those fraudulent charges pending on your account, contact your bank or CC holder as soon as possible to report it. They can put a hold on those charges to ensure you won’t be responsible for paying them, and then cancel your card if needed.
  • Put a fraud alert on your credit report – You can contact any one of the three credit reporting agencies to request a fraud alert. This alert will last up to a year and will make it difficult for thieves to open any accounts using your information. You can also request a credit freeze as well, depending on the severity of your situation, however this will make it more difficult for you to apply for additional credit, should you need it during that time.
  • Contact the FTC and the police – With minor instances where someone manages to get a hold of your credit card and uses it to buy a few things, you might not need a full ID theft report to handle the situation. If someone is trying to open accounts using your information and affecting your credit, however, it will call for more drastic measures. You can file a theft complaint with the FTC, and then file a police report as well, which together will form an ID theft report. Having a full report is more comprehensive in terms of legal protection vs. just one alone.
  • Share your ID theft report with credit reporting agencies – This can help to reduce the risk of fraudulent accounts showing up on your credit report. Remain diligent in checking your reports yourself to make sure there isn’t any incorrect or suspicious information popping up.
  • Change all passwords and monitor – Create secure, impossible to guess passwords for all of your accounts. Be as diligent as possible in watching your accounts, and continue to take action immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
Protect yourself from identity theft during the holidays

Always take action immediately once you see suspicious activity on your accounts.

Knowing how to protect yourself from identity theft is a skill you should know, but hope you never have to use! Hopefully you feel armed with more knowledge on how to prevent identity theft during the holidays, and/or have a plan of attack if you’ve been a victim to fraud.

In the event you need access to government certified copies of your vital records, VitalChek is here to help. You can rest assured your personal information is secure, with every online order fully encrypted and firewall protected. Happy holidays everyone!

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