This time of year consumers often become more vulnerable to identity theft and other forms of fraud. The holidays are full of distractions and credit card usage increases, which means more opportunities for predators to take advantage. Here are some ways to prevent identity theft and protect your finances throughout the season.
Simple Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
There’s no 100% effective way to prevent identity theft. Taking steps to protect yourself is still worthwhile to avoid debt management setbacks. Here are a few simple practices which can help to either limit vulnerability or insulate you from damage.
- Do Not Give Info to Unknown Requesters – ID thieves will pose as a bank employee and other professionals and solicit personal info or account details from consumers via phone or email. As a rule, do not give out sensitive information to unverified sources. This includes charities. If you are contacted, decline to provide info until you are able to reach someone on your own using a verified phone number, website, or email address.
- Avoid Using Your Debit Card – Using a card online or in-stores increases the chances details could end up in the wrong hands. Since your debit card is tied directly to your bank account, it’s important to keep it secure. Instead, use a credit card with fraud protection included. That way you have the ability to dispute fraudulent charges before the money actually leaves your account. Just be sure to pay off the balance each month to avoid credit card problems.
- Watch for Fake Card Readers – ID theft has become more high-tech in recent years. It’s more common than ever for card readers at gas pumps and even ATMs to be fake. Tech-savvy thieves will place card skimmers directly over real card readers in order to steal get account details. Be sure to jiggle the card reader and look for signs of tampering. A real card reader will be very stable and firm.
- Monitor Your Credit Report – An extra sneaky way for fraudsters to harm you is by using your info to open new accounts. This is especially damaging since it can go undetected for months or more and leave you needing debt consolidation to pay off fraudulent debts. You can access your credit report for free three times a year, once from each of the credit reporting agencies.
There are many other actions you can take to prevent identity theft. These four are especially important during the holiday months because consumers are more active. Everyone is using their card more, so fraudulent charges are likely to go unnoticed. Plus, the many distractions of the season make people more susceptible to various tactics of ID thieves. Just be careful and have a watchful eye while enjoying your holiday fun!