Tips to Avoid ID Theft While Holiday Shopping

It is already that time of year to shop for the holidays. I don’t want to ruin the experience, but don’t let your guard down and forget about protecting yourself from identity theft.  Thieves are still out there and they hope that you aren’t careful.  It is easy to get into the spirit of the season, rush to get things done or just be a little careless.  Whether you are shopping in the store or online, here are some tips this season:

Store shopping

Keep your wallet and/or purse secure.  Don’t make it easy for the thieves to steal from you.  Women should make sure their purse is closed, hang on to it and don’t put it down.  Men should put their wallet inside their coat jacket or in the front pocket of their slacks instead of the back.

Don’t carry additional cards or personal information you don’t need.  Only carry the credit cards you will be using and leave the remainder at home. Don’t carry your passport, birth certificate or Social Security number with you.

Don’t use debit cards for purchases. They aren’t as secure as credit cards and not protected against loss.  It is also more difficult to return items.

Don’t carry around lots of cash.  You can’t replace it, if it is lost or stolen.  If thieves see you paying with cash, you are a prime target.

Leave your check book at home unless you plan to use it.

Make sure you receive the credit card from the clerk and put it back in your wallet.

Online shopping

Only use secure websites that encrypt your credit card number.

Make sure the URL begins with https and not http, which indicates a secure site.  Also check for the “lock” icon on the page.

Secure your passwords and change them frequently.

Other safeguards

Review your credit card account online to verify transactions.

Review your statements.

Don’t give out personal information, unless applying for credit.

Enjoy your holiday shopping, just be careful.  Thieves don’t take the holidays off, they are in full force.

Credit Damage Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.

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