You may be spending more money than you think this holiday season. The holidays are a time when identity theft skyrockets, due to so many people using their credit cards both online and in the stores. With the high volume of shopping, it’s easy for identity thieves to gain access to a higher number of identities, including personal and financial information.
So how do you protect yourself? Here are a few ways to combat identity theft during the holidays:
First, check your credit report.
This may seem like an odd step, but your credit report can be a perfect way to tell if your identity has been stolen. When your identity is stolen, thieves can use the information in one of two ways. If they have your social security number, they can open new credit accounts in your name. Since the thieves have no intention of sending those credit card bills to your address, you won’t have any idea those accounts have been opened … unless you check your credit report. Any new credit or loan account that is opened in your name (or with your social security number) will appear on your credit report. So if you see an account you don’t recognize on your credit report, you can notify the bank and authorities immediately and close the account.
Second, check your credit card and bank statements.
The second way an identity theft can use the information is to use your existing credit card number to buy things on your credit card. It is easier to spot this since you have access to your credit card statements. The key is to religiously check your statements during the holiday season to make sure there aren’t any fraudulent charges on your credit card. If there are, be sure to contact the bank and authorities immediately. Remember, identity theft is a crime and having a police report will help when it comes to freezing your accounts and getting your identity back.
Third, only shop on secure websites.
It is getting easier and easier for identity thieves to gain access to your personal and financial information, especially when you are shopping online. If you are on a site where you need to input your credit card information, you need to make sure that site is secure. First, look at the address bar of the website and make sure there is an https:// in front of the URL. The extra “s” in the http means that the site is secure and your information will be encrypted. Many web browsers will also make the https:// green to let you know it is safe.
Fourth, sign up for identity theft protection.
If you don’t have time to watch over everything during the holidays, you can sign up for an identity theft protection service. These services will monitor your credit report for suspicious activity, as well as monitor to make sure no one is using your social security number or personal information without your permission. Most identity theft protection services also give you access to your credit reports and scores, so you can keep up to date on how you are doing on your credit. Here is a good list of the best identity theft/credit monitoring protection services.