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.

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