The odds are that you or someone you know has been the victim of identity theft. In a study by Javelin Strategy and Research identity theft rose in 2012 by 5% which means that over 12.6 million people fell victim to this crime.
Vincent Schilling writes how his identity was stolen in 2011. He ignored an initial alert about an unusual purchase and ends up having to spend hours replacing his cards and reporting the event. Some of the $2,000 in purchases were stopped, but not all. The FBI agent he reported this to had been shopping at a mall and had her own credit card information stolen where it was forwarded to another state where someone created a fake card and it was used for groceries within the hour.
In 2010 Dave Crouse became victim to identity theft that has left his finances in ruin. During a period of only 6 months, $900,000 was siphoned out of his account. Even after reporting it, shutting down his bank account and opening a new account at a different bank the thefts continued. He continues to fight to get it cleared up but his identity has been sold and resold so the thefts continue.
Preventing ID Theft During The Holidays
Holiday shopping can be a challenging time to keep your identity safe. While it is true that there are many cases of identity theft via the internet, the majority is still done when the thief has physical access to your information. The most common is when a wallet or purse is stolen. Your wallet usually contains enough information to give a thief all they need to take your identity. With a driver’s license, credit card and bank account information (and sometimes even your social security number), almost anyone can open new accounts, change the password on existing accounts or reek many other kinds of havoc. And the most vulnerable time? During the holidays.
During the holidays, more people are shopping, enjoying public events or otherwise around people. Many stores hire thousands of temporary employees during the holiday season who may not go through a thorough background check (and even if they do, without a prior criminal record, nothing will show up).
To protect your identity when navigating through crowded malls that may have pickpockets, employees at stores who may be criminals or while shopping online and risking hackers or data breaches at sites that have your personal information, diligent caution needs to be used.
The following are some basic tips to help keep you and your identity safe.
- Never keep your Social Security card in your wallet or purse.
- Carry only what you need when you are shopping (ID and credit/debit card).
- Be mindful of in-store credit offers or other cases where you are providing personal information.
- Be suspicious if an employee asks for information on a normal purchase that is not normally required. Ask to speak to a manager or report the incident.
- Update your computer’s security software when recommended. The cost is minimal compared to the damage that could happen if your information is stolen.
- Shop only at secure websites. Look for the “https” in the browser – never provide personal information on a site that is not secure.
Take a look at our identity theft resource page if you suspect a breach.