Identity Protection, Resources

Top tips for protecting yourself from ID theft this holiday season

For many people, the holidays can be a whirlwind – from finding the perfect gift to confirming travel plans for family gatherings. Unfortunately, the increased consumer shopping and travel during the holidays also presents the perfect opportunity for identity thieves to swipe your personal information and use it for their own profit. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to keep this from happening to you.

What are identity thieves after?

The most common targets are credit card and bank account numbers along with usernames and passwords, and it’s important to stay vigilant in protecting this information during the holidays.

“Shopping and travel increase significantly this time of year, providing more opportunities for identity theft,” explains Margie Johnson, Vice President of Compliance at SAC Federal Credit Union. “Consumers need to know how identity thieves operate and then take the necessary steps to protect themselves.”

The methods ID thieves use to collect your personal info fall into two categories: physical and electronic. Be proactive about protecting yourself from both methods (see below).

What you can do to prevent identity theft this season

In addition to refusing to give out confidential information by phone, mail, or email until you’ve confirmed that the requesting source is legitimate, there are other steps you can take to protect your identity:

  • Carry fewer credit cards so there are fewer opportunities for someone to make fraudulent charges. Plus you’ll have fewer cards to keep track of as you travel for the holidays. Additionally, leave your Social Security card at home instead of in your wallet.
  • Malls, gas stations, and more are bustling with people this time of year. Guard your wallet, purse, or briefcase at all times, and make sure no one is in a position to steal it.
  • Be aware of who is around when using your ATM PIN, and shield the keypad.
  • Check bank and credit card statements for “surprise” charges. During the holidays, you might make more purchases than usual, so take the time to sort through carefully.
  • Never print or write your Social Security number on your checks.
  • Don’t put paid bills in your mailbox – take them to a secure post office box for mailing.
  • When shopping online for gifts, look for “https” in the address bar to ensure it’s a secure site.

ID theft 101: 3 ways to protect yourself

In 2012, more than 12 million Americans were victims of stolen identities. Protect yourself from being a statistic by doing these three important things:

1. Don’t make purchases through an email pitch (like an unbelievable holiday travel deal) unless you can confirm that the sender is a trustworthy entity. Additionally, never respond to an email that asks for account numbers, usernames, or passwords. Pretending to be a legitimate entity to collect personal information is called phishing. (See Microsoft’s article on phishing for more information.)

2. Shred all papers containing bank account or credit card information or Social Security numbers. (SAC offers free shred days periodically.) Be especially mindful of what you leave behind if you stay in a hotel room or board an airplane.

3. Request your free annual credit report at and keep an eye out for fraudulent accounts opened in your name.

Bottom line: be conscious of protecting your personal information throughout the year, and be especially vigilant when shopping and making travel arrangements during the holiday season.

To learn more about protecting your identity, see “Combating ID theft: Advanced tips and tools for protecting your identity.”

Are you ready to shop and travel safely this Christmas?  Have you done all you can to protect yourself from identity theft scams? If you find your identity has been compromised, be sure to download our helpful checklist, The Ultimate ID Theft Checklist: What to do when your ID is stolen.

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Author SAC FCU Managing Editor

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