Foiling identity theft during the holidays—and all year through
Guess which state had the highest number of identity theft complaints last year. Yeah, it’s Florida. Our state ranks highest, based on complaints per population. And, Florida is behind only California for cyber crime.
Since the holidays seem to stimulate use of credit cards, galvanize your fraud awareness radar right alongside. Be aware of tricks of the identity theft trade, particularly:
- Shoulder Surfing: This is when someone is watching over your shoulder in a public place as you punch in a credit card number or listening in while you call in a credit card order over the phone. Seek privacy!
- Dumpster Diving: Thieves aren’t above digging through your trash to get check information, credit card numbers or bank statements. They also look for pre-approved credit card offers you may have received, so tear those up before tossing them.Maybe Santa can bring you a shredder for Christmas. Or, look for companies in your area that will shred for you. Some charge as little as $5 to $10 a box to shred sensitive documents for you.
- Spam Mail: Criminals love the Internet. While we all want to believe this is the season where wishes come true, there is no one in Nigeria with tons of money to give you for merely sending them a few thousand dollars first.
The FBI lists common fraud schemes, and the U.S. Dept. of Justice has an identity theft quiz. Good tip: Don’t carry all your credit cards with you; take only what you need, so if your wallet is stolen, thieves have fewer options and you have fewer calls to make.
Most home and renters policies provide coverage for theft of money or credit cards. However, the amount is limited to usually about $200 in cash and $50 on each card. Some companies offer more comprehensive coverage, so find out what you have and ask about the costs and benefits of additional identity theft protection.