The holiday season can be expensive for consumers. But if you're not vigilant about protecting your identity, the holidays will cost you more than you anticipated. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that more than 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. And it can cost a victim more than $1,200 and 60 hours to clear their name.
You would be surprised at how easy it is to steal your identity while you're standing in line at a store or shopping online. However, protecting your identity is easy too. Here are SmartMoney.com's tips for guarding your identity during holiday shopping:
1. Streamline Your Wallet: Only carry what you need to the mall during shopping trips. Don't bring your Social Security card, rarely-used credit cards, or excess cash. If you don't need it leave it at home.
2. Keep Track of Your Credit Card: When you hand your credit card over to a salesperson for a purchase, ensure that he or she doesn't walk away with your card. Additionally, monitor how many times your credit card is scanned.
3. Safeguard your purse and wallet: Women should carry handbags in front of them, especially when they have several bags to carry. And men should carry wallets in their front pocket, where they're more likely to notice if someone is trying to pickpocket them.
4. Pay Attention to Your Surroundings: If you're waiting in line to make a purchase be careful about taking your card out of your wallet before you get to the cashier. An identity thief can glimpse your credit-card number, or use a camera phone to take a quick snap of your information. If you have your card out, cover the number of keep the card face down.
5. If you buy online, beef up your computer's security: One of the first things you need as an online shopper is an active firewall. According to SmartMoney.com most Internet browsers have one, just make sure yours is activated. Then, invest in antivirus and antispyware software. This will keep any savvy thieves from hacking into your personal online information.
6. Shop on trustworthy sites: Only shop on reputable, well-known websites. You can check out companies at the Better Business Bureau's website, www.bbb.org. Shoppers should also look for the Trustmark on websites. Trustmarks such as, TRUSTe, BBBonLine Privacy Program, VerSign, and Hacker SAFE, all represent websites that are safe and reliable.
7. Limit Yourself to One Credit Card for Online Shopping: If you do find that your ID has been stolen, you won't have to sort through plies of credit-card statements or cancel all of your cards.
Protecting your identity is paramount during this busy time of year. Please take these precautions so you can have a safe and happy holiday.
If you think you have been the victim of identity theft, check your credit on Military.com.