Protect Your Identity This Holiday Season
By Cat Tobin
With the holiday spending season fast approaching, it's crucial that you understand the dangers of identity theft. Though many of the methods thieves use to steal identities are out of our control, there are many measures you can take to protect yourself from the threats identity thieves pose.
Protect Your Credit Card Number From Prying Eyes
When making purchases with your credit or debit card, make sure that only the last 4 digits of your card number are shown on the receipt. The first 12 digits should be unknown, and are usually replaced by Xs. If they aren't, by law you are permitted to mark out the first 12 digits on the merchants copy with a pen.
It is especially important that you check your credit card receipt at restaurants. Don't leave the restaurant's copy on the table after your meal if all 16 digits are shown. It's best to cross out the first 12 digits and personally hand the receipt to the wait staff. Otherwise, you risk an identity thief walking away with your name, account number, and quite possibly your card's expiration date.
Only Use Your Social Security Number When Absolutely Necessary.
Though it is necessary to use your social security number when applying for credit or opening a bank account, it isn't always necessary that you use it in other circumstances. Although not that common nowadays, some stores and organizations may want to use your SSN as an ID number within their system. Though this practice is discouraged by law, you will still run across it from time to time. In these situations it is best to use your judgment. If for any reason you feel uncomfortable, there is usually an alternative available if you ask.
Your Trash is Treasure to an Identity Thief
The most important investment you can make in protecting your identity is a good paper shredder. Identity thieves won't think twice about going through your trash in order to find sensitive personal information that will help them obtain credit in your name. Shred anything and everything that has personal information, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, etc. Do it at home. Do it at work.
The holiday season is a time for us to enjoy shopping for our friends and family. With every swipe of our credit cards, however, it is imperative that we protect our financial futures from the dangerous threats identity thieves pose.