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Preventing Identity Theft during the Holidays

Preventing Identity Theft

The Holidays are here, and it is a very busy time for both consumers and businesses. Retailers are pushing their end of the year sales while consumers are on the hunt for the perfect holiday gifts, both online and in store. With all the energy and excitement of holiday shopping, identity thieves are using the frantic distractions to their advantage in order to gain access to secure and confidential information they can use. By following some simple steps, you can ensure that you have a nice, stress-free holiday and can avoid being the victim of fraudulent activity.

Online Shopping
Purchasing products online continues to soar in popularity. More shoppers prefer shopping online than at traditional stores for the first time this year, according to an annual survey by analytics firm comScore and UPS.  While online shopping is more convenient, your card number can be compromised online individually or through a system breach.  Make sure to only use websites you trust and be on the look out for any suspicious shopping cart behaviors. Using credit cards instead of debit cards is suggested as credit cards are typically better for dealing with fraud claims and you will not have a negative account balance as you would with debit. When you are entering your credit card number or any other confidential information, make sure that the website has a security certificate (the URL starts with https and has a little padlock icon).  If in a public place, never use an unsecured wifi network when shopping online.

Retail Shopping
Many retailers have switched to processing credit cards through secure chip technology, which means we most likely will not see any massive system breaches like we did with Target or Home Depot in previous years.  While this is good news for customers, it does not mean that you should let your guard down while in line or at the register.  Do not have your card out while waiting for your turn, shield your pin when entering, opt for signatures instead of pins when available, and decline to provide your zip code if asked.  Keep an eye on your card at all times during a transaction to reduce the likelihood of skimming, or copying your credit card info.  Be cautious about applying for a store credit card to save a percentage off your purchase.  Application forms will require very personal information including address, social security, date of birth, etc, and who knows what the store does with those once the credit is approved or declined.

Manage Alerts and Paperwork
While many bank and credit card companies have their own fraud detection departments, setting up your own alerts for large debit and credit card purchases is the quickest and best way to stay on top of any potential fraudulent charges. Have alerts texted to you or sent to an email that notifies your phone so you can take immediate action. Be cautious of phishing emails or calls trying to obtain personal info, even if it is from a reputable company such as your bank.  If you receive an unsolicited email or call requesting account info, hangup and contact the institution directly to inquire about any action needed. Check your credit score and online transactions periodically to make sure everything looks accurate.  When available, opt for paperless billing statements to avoid the risk of tossing it in the trash. All credit card offers, receipts, and bank statements should always be shredded in order to properly ensure your identity is protected. Contact us for a free quote on a one time or scheduled shredding service anywhere in NJ.


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