While identity theft can happen at any time of the year, people are particularly vulnerable to this crime during the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, an estimated 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. And ID theft is rampant during the holiday season, where distractions and situations can expose you to thieves and other scam artists looking to rob your personal and financial information.
To keep your good cheer and identify intact, the following are some easy and simple steps to inoculate yourself from identity theft over the holiday season and throughout the New Year.
How To Protect Yourself
You first need to begin by establishing a banking relationship that enables you to have access to your money in a safe and convenient manner through amenities such as online banking with bill pay, telephone banking, e-statements, debit cards and direct deposit.
Online Banking with Bill Pay
This service enables you to access your accounts for balance inquiry, transfer funds, stop payments and pay bills anytime, anywhere. It also allows you to monitor your account at all times for personal money matters and for business.
In addition, online banking allows you to move money quickly and easily so there is no need to have a large amount of money parked on your checking account. This will minimize the financial disruption should your debit card be stolen or compromised and allow you to keep the extra money in your savings account or money market until you really need it.
By paying bills online, you reduce the exposure you normally have by paying with a check or allowing a company to have your account information through a pay key on a web site. Remember: Checks provide anyone who touches that check with your bank name, your account number and your signature. Online bill pay uses checks that do not have your specific account information on it or your signature and allows you the control of how much and when to pay.
If you don’t have a computer, ask if your bank offers telephone banking and make sure you know about all of its features. With this service you can access your account for balance inquiry, transfer funds, and stop payment. Through telephone banking, you can also monitor your account as well as move funds easily.
Make an E-statement Over the Holidays
This is another great way not to have important documents sitting in your mailbox during the holidays! E-statements are a fast, safe and convenient way to manage your account and environmentally friendly, too.
Debit cards are much more convenient than checks, allowing you to get through the checkout line faster. But be careful to keep your card and numbers out of sight at all times. Hold your debit card upside down when you get it out then swipe it and put it away immediately. ID thieves will even resort to taking a picture of your card with their cell phone so keep it out of sight!
Even if you are out of town during the holidays, you can access your money fast with no waiting and no hassles through direct deposit. And, like e-statements, it eliminates having any checks or important information sitting in your mailbox.
Like Santa, make a list and check it twice
In case your credit cards are lost or stolen, you should make a list of your credit card numbers and the contact information for each of them so you can immediately contact the card company. You should also consider an identity theft solution service that will provide an extra layer of coverage as well as assist you in the event your cards are stolen. Ask your bank if they offer this service.
In addition, consistently shred documents or paper items that may contain confidential information. There is no need to make it easy for someone to obtain your information from your trash. And, of course, never give anyone your personal information such as Social Security number, bank account numbers or balances, credit card numbers, debit card numbers or PINs.
Every 3.2 seconds someone loses their identity. Don’t let identity theft ruin your holiday season.