Avoid ID theft during holiday shoppingHo, Ho . . . Oh, No! Avoid Identity Theft During Holiday Shopping

By Mackenzie Turberville

The holiday season is full of hustle and bustle: crowded shopping malls, harried shoppers,

and plenty of credit- and debit-card transactions. For identity thieves, ’tis the season for taking.

“There are just more transactions going on,” said Keith Carr, president of Identity Theft

Solutions, a Tallahassee company that provides services ranging from insuring against identity theft to restoring victims’ credit after the fact. “People are shopping more online, they’re buying more in stores, and they’re putting more on their credit cards.”

Having your identity stolen can be devastating, according to Carr.

“We have provided some people with support groups,” he said.

Here are some tips on how to avoid the trauma:

  1. Watch out for “shoulder surfers,” people who listen to your transaction or sneak peeks at debit or credit cards, driver’s licenses and other personal data. Tech-savvy thieves also may use camera phones to capture images of your critical information.
  2. “Skimmers” are another tool of the trade. These are small card-reading devices that store information. After sliding your card through the cash register, an unscrupulous clerk then slides it through this device. When the skimmer is filled with enough victims’ personal information, the clerk then sells it. Keep your eyes on your card at all times, and don’t let clerks distract you long enough to slide it through secondary devices.
  3. Simple purse and bag snatching remains a threat. Put receipts in your wallet instead of bags, and never carry cards you don’t need that day.
  4. Never provide your Social Security number online or over the phone. Your credit card number should be sufficient for any transaction.
  5. When shopping online, make sure you trust the Web site you’re buying from. The Better Business Bureau suggests that you check along the bottom of your browser’s windowpane for the symbol of a lock or an unbroken key. Also, the page that asks for your credit card information should have “https” at the beginning of the address instead of “http.” Either of these signs indicates that the site is conducting secure transactions.
  6. Never leave ATM, gas, credit or debit card receipts behind.

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