To make sure your holiday season is merry and bright, I would like to give you the gift of practical ways to protect yourself and your customers from possible problems, either online or offline. Often the busy-ness of the season makes shoppers a little careless about taking care to protect their personal information and unscrupulous bad guys are there to turn the most wonderful time of the year into an after-Christmas nightmare for an unsuspecting victim of identity fraud or theft.
So, be reminded to keep track of your cell phone, electronic devices, your personal information, your wallet, your debit and credit cards. Make sure to double-check your purse, pockets, and packages to secure your credit card receipts and see that you have all your information and purchases.
Do not give your credit card number over a cell phone or in an email message, neither of these methods is safe communication of your personal information. If email is the only way you can do it, break it up in an email and text the person you are providing it to as to it being broken up. If you are providing it over your cell phone, there just is not any protection unless you break it up too. Provide the number one time and the expiration date on another and the CVS code or yet another. Or, as is always available, assume the risk and do not be surprised if something happens.
If you are a customer, as you shop in the stores, keep an eye on your sales clerk when you go to make a purchase. There have been many reported incidents where sales clerks had scanners (small pager-looking devices) attached to their waistbands or belts and before or after your credit card would be run for your purchase, your card would be swiped through the scanner to obtain the number and other information available. You would be none the wiser…until later.
The ruse used for the customer is something along the lines: ”I was just cleaning the magnetic strip on the card so it would work properly.” Do not let this happen to you.
If you observe this situation or if you are a victim of such an action, find the management now!!! The police need to be notified. Hundreds of credit card numbers are stolen in this fashion and so many folks are unaware of this method of theft.
If you are in a retail business, make sure you double-check your seasonal employees. Keep track of any pager-like devices on their belts or suspicious activity. Can you spell L-I-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y? It could be yours which would ruin your joyous season too.
There are really three protection perspectives to keep in mind as you travel the highways and byways of the holiday season …
- Remember, Identity theft is still one of the fastest growing crimes in America, and you don’t need that in your life.
- Theft of credit cards or credit card information is growing daily
- Remember, only YOU can prevent forest fires … er, that is, take care to protect your own and your family’s personal information
Here are a few simple tips to take you out of the ‘easy mark’ category:
Be Careful Using Public Wifi. If you choose to use an unsecured public wifi connection, be careful not to use it for banking, shopping, using social media or even to check your email. Cybercriminals may try to gain access to your device and steal your personal information without you even knowing. Also, verify the validity of unsecured wifi networks before connecting. Some cybercriminals have been known to create their own network offering ‘free wifi’ and give it a familiar name in an attempt to trick you and intercept your data. Therefore, verify the name of the network with an employee or staff member before connecting.
Guard your mail. Put outgoing bills in collection boxes (although you are encouraged to place your mail inside the post office – there have been many thefts of mail from collection boxes); promptly collect incoming mail and if you are traveling away for the holidays, even for a few days, place holds on delivery when you are away. Don’t leave any outgoing or incoming mail locked in your car.
Package Delivery. If your front porch or home is susceptible to delivery box theft, sign up for a Mail Boxes, Etc. or UPS Store or Postal Annex type of box that has a physical address for the last three months of the year and have your deliveries sent there.
Put strong passwords on your financial accounts. Avoid consecutive numbers or easily obtainable information like your mother’s maiden name. And don’t use the same password for all of your accounts.
Limit the number of credit cards you carry. Carry just the ones you need. Limit identification information too.
Pay attention to billing statements and cycles. Set up online accounts so you can check the activity on your card regularly. Also, identity thieves may take over an account and change the address to protect them. Stay vigilant – don’t get excited that you did not receive a bill; there may be a problem.
Shred, shred, shred. Or at least tear up charge receipts, insurance forms, and anything that has personally identifiable information on it. Keep or shred your ATM receipts.
REMEMBER YOU LEAVE AN ELECTRONIC FOOTPRINT SO: STAY AWARE and STAY ALERT
Happy Holidays from me to you!!!
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