Black Friday. The official start of the year-end holiday shopping spree where millions of consumers will prowl local shops and online retailers for that perfect holiday gift. And, it’s also a very prime time for criminals and hackers out to steal your money, or worse yet, your identity. Consumer Reports’ Guide to online security outlines some of the most common Net threats—such as skimming, phishing, online scams, and computer viruses.
This year, make a pledge to be ID safe and help protect yourself from identity theft. In short, make sure you shop safe, think before you click, and follow these tips:
1. Reduce junk mail offers. Pre-approved offers are often stolen out of your mail and redirected to the thieves. If you have keepmyID.org you will automatically be enrolled in our junk mail reduction program reducing your risk and drastically reducing the junk mail you receive. If you do it yourself, opt out with all three credit agencies every 60 days (or as required by each agency).
2. No e-filing. Don’t e-file your taxes. Opt out. File a paper return. This prevents thieves from rerouting your IRS tax return or filing false returns year after year. If you qualify, get a PIN number from the IRS. That ensures no one can file a tax return except you.
3. Get ID protection. Employ an identity theft prevention (not monitoring) service (yes, even if it is not us, please use someone). They are extremely inexpensive for what you receive. Make sure your program has 100% recovery services (not just a “$1M guarantee”) with a dedicated representative that will help you through the identity theft nightmare should it ever happen to you.
4. Check your credit. Check your credit reports from all three credit agencies regularly. Many times people have no idea there is fraudulent activity on their accounts. You must get these reports to know if there are errors. Look for personal information and credit accounts that are not yours. Credit bureaus make mistakes. If you have keepmyID.org you will automatically receive three of these reports per year.
5. Cover easy targets. Get identity theft protection for your children and elderly parents. Children and the elderly are two of the biggest targets for identity thieves. Why? They never check their credit reports so they do not detect fraud. We offer a reduced rate for family members.
6. No monitoring services. Avoid “Monitoring” Services. These simply alert you AFTER your identity is stolen. That is far too late. You want a prevention service and some form of identity theft insurance in case your identity gets stolen. If you have our service you will automatically get both.
7. Shred it. Never discard unused checks or bank statements in the trash without shredding: Shred, Shred, Shred (one of the #1 ways they steal your identity is through your trash). Shred everything: including credit card receipts (after you’ve reconciled your bill), medical statements, everyday bills, and pre-approved credit card offers. Any document that has personal financial information on it can give an identity thief a foothold into your life.
8. No checks in the mail. Don’t order checks through the mail (pay extra for the security envelopes that banks offer, or better yet, pick your checks up at the bank. Yes, some U.S. Postmen are not your friend. There have been several cases where the Postman was the one out there selling off your checks one-by-one in the neighborhood).
9. File a report. File a police report with local law enforcement officials if a breach occurs. This is an essential step in claiming your rights. Agencies require a police report to put certain protections in place.
10. No personal information. Don’t put personal information on checks (such as Social Security numbers; date of birth; and the like).
11. Lock your mailbox. Get a mailbox that locks or route your mail to a P.O. Box. You can still put outgoing mail on the outside and keep the delivered mail safe on the inside of the mailbox.
12. Educate Yourself. Educate yourself about common scams committed via telephone, mail, e-mail, and in person. Learn to recognize when you are being tricked into disclosing information you shouldn’t disclose. If you have our service you will receive weekly scam alerts and get access to our former law enforcement resource center. Our goal is to train you as we have been trained when it comes to identity theft.
13. Lock it up. Lock up financial records in the home or office. You have no way of knowing if your household help, roommate, or a relative will end up being an identity thief.
14. Beware of dog. Use your ID protection company’s logo on personal email to let thieves know you are protected (think of it as a Beware of Dog sign for your home). They’ll move on to the easier target.
15. Beware shoulder surfers. Be watchful of shoulder-surfers. At ATMs and phone booths, thieves will stand close enough to see PIN numbers punched in by users.
16. Mind the gap. Mind those credit card receipts, especially since only a few credit card receipts have stopped listing full account numbers and expiration dates. Put the charge slip copies in a safe spot until your credit card bills arrive.
17. Be consistent. Write clearly on all credit applications. Consistently and completely fill in all credit and loan applications using your full name, first, middle and last. Every bill that comes to your house should be addressed exactly the same.
18. Close ’em out. Monitor your credit accounts carefully, so you’ll know if a bill’s missing or unauthorized purchases have been made. Close out unused credit cards. Cutting them up is not enough.
19. Carry only what you need. Limit the number of credit cards you carry. The fewer cards you have, the easier it is to track them. And make a copy of everything in your wallet should it ever be stolen: front and back so you have the credit account numbers and you know who to call.
20. Paid bills are magnets. Never leave paid bills in your mailbox for the mail carrier to pick up. Drop them off at a post office box.
21. Contact and update. If you’re moving, contact all your creditors and update them of your address changes immediately. You don’t want credit information and new credit cards being delivered to the wrong address. Likewise, if your credit card expires and you don’t receive a new one, call your creditor immediately.
22. Protect your number. Protect your Social Security number. Only give your Social Security number when absolutely necessary. Avoid using it as your account number whenever possible. If merchants demand it, ask for an alternate number and take your business elsewhere if they insist on writing it on your check. And never carry your Social Security number and driver license together in your wallet.
23. Phone solicitations. Don’t provide your Social Security number, bank account number or credit card number to anyone who contacts you through telephone solicitation. Get enrolled in a telemarketer elimination program or opt out all your numbers and renew it each time it expires. If you have our service you will automatically be enrolled in our telemarketer elimination program.
24. Online Shopping. If you’re shopping with an online merchant for the first time, look for the Trust-e symbol or a Better Business Bureau online seal. These indicate the seller has been independently audited and deemed trustworthy.
25. http…s. Make sure any online credit card charges are handled through a secure site or in an encrypted mode. You’ll know you’re on a secure site if the Web page on which you conduct your transaction begins with “https” instead of the usual “http.” The “s” stands for secure.
There are dozens of precautions you can take to decrease your chances of being a victim of identity theft. As a member of keepmyID.org, each customer is taught the preventative measures to take. You will receive the latest training and materials from the foremost experts in the field. You will be alerted to the most common scams and schemes. All of this information will be available through our online resource center. Find out more about identity theft protection at KeepMyId.org or calling 800-664-5936.