ID theft rises during holiday season

Ho Ho Ho … Oh No!Avoid Identity Theft During Holiday

By Mackenzie Turberville

The holiday season is full of hustle and bustle: crowded malls, harried shoppers,  and a flurry of online purchases, which means increased credit-card and debit-card transactions. For identity thieves, ’tis the season for taking.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your name, Social Security number or address, to establish credit, obtain loans or make purchases. According to the Federal Trade Commission, between 700,000 and 1 million people fall victim to identity theft every year. And as of 2002, Florida was ranked as the sixth state in the nation for its high occurrence of this crime.

“At Vanguard Bank, we take identity security very seriously, with several layers of protection,” said Debbie Buchanan, Vanguard’s marketing officer, from the bank’s main branch in  Valparaiso. “Identity theft can happen to anyone in hundreds of different ways. Proper precautions are the best protection for your information.”

By taking a few preventive measures, particularly during the holiday season, you may save yourself from an experience that is costly, both financially and emotionally.
Beware of the scams
• “Shoulder surfers” are people who listen to your transaction or sneak peeks at debit or credit cards, driver’s licenses and other personal data. Tech-savvy thieves also may use camera phones to capture images of your critical information.

  • • Watch out for “skimmers,” which are small card-reading devices that store information. After sliding your card through the cash register, an unscrupulous clerk then slides it through this device. When the skimmer is filled with enough victims’ personal information, the clerk then sells it. Keep your eyes on your card at all times, and don’t let clerks distract you long enough to slide it through secondary devices.
  • • Simple purse and bag snatching remains a threat. Put receipts in your wallet instead of bags, and never carry cards you don’t need that day.
  • • When shopping online, make sure you trust the Web site you’re buying from. The Better Business Bureau suggests that you check along the bottom of your browser’s windowpane for the symbol of a lock or an unbroken key. Also, the page that asks for your credit card information should have “https” at the beginning of the address instead of “http.” Either of these signs indicates that the site is conducting secure transactions.
  • • Never leave ATM, gas, credit or debit card receipts behind.