Letting your guard down amid the bustle of the holiday season, whether in pursuit of that perfect gift for a special someone or chatting excitedly about plans to visit a new ski resort, can be a recipe for disaster, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
Identity thieves resort to everything from picking pockets to deciphering location codes in digital photos to see where the house is with that brand-new home theater system or the diamond bracelet adorning the wrist of the lady of the house.
CFA offers a dozen ideas that you, and your clients, can use to stay safe this holiday season, both physically and in cyberspace.
12) Let’s Get Physical
Hold tight to purses and put wallets in a front pocket while shopping and browsing. If you must set either one down, be sure you keep an eye on it while it is out of your hands. Otherwise, Light-fingered Louie may be enjoying all those lovely holiday gifts you planned to buy—on his all-expenses-paid (by you) vacation in Aruba.
11) Take Your Security Blanket
Shopping online for Cyber Monday deals and using apps to seek out the best store deals may be exciting, but be sure that your transactions and even basic communications are conducted over an encrypted connection. Otherwise, when you go to your bank account to transfer funds for that giant-screen TV, Stealthy Steve may be watching to abscond with your account number and password.
10) Loose Lips Sink Holidays
Don’t let everyone in on your plans for the holidays, especially the trip you’re planning to Aunt Martha’s or the cool new electronics you know will be under the tree. Don’t publish photos on social networking sites, either, lest they contain geocodes that give thieves your address—something else never to post—so they can relieve you of your holiday plunder. Ditto for birthdays, Social Security numbers, and other personal info—all clues to lighten your wallet and ruin your credit.
9) Rip, Tear, Burn
Simply tossing old papers is not safe. Trashy Tom will be only too happy to sift through your garbage to find old bank and credit card statements and other documents that may be outdated but still contain valuable personal information. If you can’t burn ’em, shred ’em!
If you don’t know an online merchant, check it out first before shopping there—everything from complaints to privacy and return policies. Make sure their site is encrypted before passing over your credit card number—and use credit, rather than debit, cards or checking accounts; they offer more protection if the purchase turns out to be a Nightmare Before (or After) Christmas.
7) If It’s Not Santa’s List, Get Off
Take your name off pre-approved credit lists, lest those offers disappear from your mailbox and end up in Devious Dave’s hands. Don’t know where to opt out? Go to www.optoutprescreen.com.