Identity Theft Protection This Holiday Season

by Radek M. Gadek · 7 comments

The protection of your identity this holiday season, and any holiday season for that matter, is very crucial to your financial security. Criminals will be prowling the stores, food courts, and the outlet malls looking for ways to make a quick buck or a “killing.” Not murder, but a lucrative heist on your financial future.

People and things to watch out for when trying to secure your identity

  • pickpockets — make sure to keep your belongings safe by keeping them near you at all times. If at all possible, keep the purses and wallets at home. Take with you only what you need: ID card or drivers license and a credit card. Stick them in the front pocket of your pants. I don’t recommend having a large sum of cash on hand.
  • shoulder surfers— these are the type of individuals who like to peek over your shoulder and take mental notes of things like:
    • your pin number
    • your credit card information
    • your checking account number information
  • ATM scams — these are very hard to detect. You go to your local ATM and try to withdraw money. You stick your debit card into the ATM but no money’s coming out. After you key in your pin number numerous times, you try again. But, once again no success. You decide to give up and move on to another ATM. What you really don’t know is that a tech savvy criminal has just stolen your debit card information. He has the 16 digit number as well as your pin number. What you don’t know is that a device was placed within the frame of the card slot that collects the information for the identity thief.

How to counter these identity theft threats?

In order for you not to become a victim of any of these three threats I recommend doing only what is necessary.

For example, individuals with lavish purses and bulging back pockets filled with cash are more prone to theft than those who bring only the things that are truly necessary. Necessities like a drivers license and a credit card for holiday shopping should be kept in the safest place on you. In my experience, the front pocket of your pants is the best place. I highly recommend wearing jeans so that the contents of your pocket stay there securely.

If you have a shoulder surfer looking over your shoulder you should immediately hide your personal and financial information, or the item of interest, from the perpetrator’s view. Sometimes being bold and demanding can solve the problem. However, this could be a more dangerous technique which can have violent ramifications if you decide to confront the wrong person.

The thing with ATMs is a tricky one. Which ATM is really safe from tech-savvy identity thief? Well, to be honest, no ATM is really safe. If you have to take out cash, take it out from your bank’s ATM. Preferably, use the bank that you frequent the most. I don’t recommend taking money out from a third-party ATM, like those in malls and gas stations.

Secondly, there is something you can do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim, even if you have to take out money from a third-party ATM. You can make sure physically that there is nothing out of the ordinary before you insert your ATM card. Loose pieces, obscure attachments, and protruding wires should be the visible signs of a possible fraud operation. I recommend taking down the phone number that is associated with the ATM, then promptly leaving the location. After you find another safe ATM, finish your shopping, and wind down for miles and miles of walking, give that phone number a ring and report what you saw at the ATM.

I wish you a safe and a happy holiday season.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ishan February 8, 2009 at 1:50 pm

This is a very interesting article. Identity Theft has to be classified as the biggest fraud that is being committed nowadays. The sheer number of people that are effected by it is just mind boggling. I read on FTC Website that that more than 9 million Americans are impacted by Identity Theft every year. And a big reason for that is people still do not fully understand What exactly Identity Theft is. Most of the people still think that Identity Theft means stealing someone’s Social Security Number. But that’s not true, and Identity Theft has a much wider scope.

Understanding what Exactly Identity theft is helps in taking effective steps in preventing it.

Sundavy March 13, 2009 at 10:59 pm

The worst part of using ATM: if you use your ATM card to pay for things at stores, the store may store your ATM transaction information in their system, including your pin number. The store’s machine mostly is not that secure and a criminal can hack it relative easily. So no third party is a good suggestion.
But on the other one, your bank machine is not 100% secure. One trick is called ATM Withholding: Card Withholding is a scam where the thief places a substance in the machine that will cause your card to get stuck inside the ATM. The thief may be in line behind you watching you enter your PIN or there may be hidden cameras. When you leave the machine frustrated that your card is stuck inside, the thief will remove your card with pliers (or some tool).

Mike September 17, 2009 at 5:36 pm

As more and more holiday buying happens in ecommerce stores, online shoppers should take extra precaution over the holidays, as well.

Ted April 1, 2011 at 10:56 am

Thank you for this content. Arizona got hard hit by identity theft — an interesting combination of reasons — Meth Users AND local governments posting public records to the web. Reporter Leslie Yeransian wrote about this for ABC news.

George November 2, 2011 at 8:04 pm

ID theft prevention is helpful. But it is impossible to protect yourself completely, unless you want to live in the woods. I find the real substantive benefit for people is to be able to help clean up the problem after it occurs.

Christie December 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Thanks for the helpful article. I can not stress enough to people how important it is to watch out for thieves especially at the ATM machine. I always try to go into a store to use an ATM machine instead of being outside, in clear view by myself. Just another helpful tip to increase precaution and awareness of identity thieves.

janie H January 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

Do you also recommend using a secure locking mailbox as a deterrent to ID theft? Since mail theft is so easy to do, people with little or no technical and computer skills can and do steal identities via mail.

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