WASHINGTON -- With the holiday shopping season underway, servicemembers need to ensure they are taking the proper steps to protect themselves from credit fraud and identity theft, the National Guard Bureau's chief privacy officer said.
"Monitoring bank accounts, setting up e-mail or text message alerts to inform you of suspicious activity on your account(s) and setting up a free-of-charge fraud alert on your credit report are some good ways to start protecting yourself," said Jennifer Nikolaisen.
Remembering some simple steps when making purchases or traveling can be the difference between information protection and financial failure, she said.
First, "make sure ? statements that have your credit card number or personal information are shredded after you are done with them, not recycled, but shredded," she said.
Next, "pay attention to your surroundings," said Nikolaisen. "When making purchases be aware that no one can see you enter your pin number or try to swap credit cards."
And finally, "be smart with online purchases," she said. "If there is not an HTTPS in the URL of a webpage, then it isn't a creditable website and your information could be stolen."
Nikolaisen said there has been a rise in identity thefts resulting from use of social media sites.
"If you have a social-media site ? and you put on your (page) that you're going to be out of town or use the check-in tool that gives your location, that alerts people that you are away from your home," she said.
Thieves will break into a house, steal personal information, set up lines-of-credit, which often isn't found until after the damage has been done.
Social media is also an issue with children as well, said Nikolaisen.
"Kids are not always as aware ? they shouldn't let people know they're out of town for the holidays," she said. "
Nikolaisen recommends that troops go to the Federal Trade Commission's Website at www.ftc.gov, which has important tips and tools on information protection or www.idtheftcenter.org if they have already been a victim of identity theft or credit fraud.