Mark Pribish

13 tips to prevent ID theft during the holidays

By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

Whether you are a consumer or a business, now is the time to review your ID-theft and cybersecurity risks because the criminals are gearing up to steal your information during the holidays. They can attack as you shop online, or in the flurry of transactions during Black Friday madness.

To help protect you and your business this holiday season, I have prepared my 2015 holiday checklist of tips to help reduce your risk of identity theft and fraud:

  1. Computer security software. Regularly update the security software (anti-virus, firewall and anti-malware) on your computers.
  2. Contests. Be careful when entering contests to win cash, cars, and tickets, etc., as they can be a source of computer viruses. Remember also that every contest site will use your personal information for marketing purposes and likely sell your personal information to third-party marketers.
  3. E-mails and attachments. Do not open e-mails and attachments from individuals or organizations that you do not know and trust.
  4. Holiday packages. Be aware that thieves steal packages delivered to your doorstep. They follow UPS or FedEx trucks, wait for a delivery and then grab the package(s) before you can retrieve them.
  5. Online shopping. Do business with companies you know and trust. Use a credit card instead of a debit card or checking account, as your credit card is protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act. Also, look for icons such as a padlock or unbroken key at the top or bottom of your browser as a sign that encryption is used.
  6. Password management. Always create complex passwords using a combination of mixed-case words, numbers, punctuation, symbols and letters, with a minimum of 10 characters. Ideally, you should change your passwords every 90 days and at a minimum two times a year. Also, use a different password for sensitive accounts, such as your bank account, than what you use for your social media account(s).
  7. Personally identifiable information. Take extra care in protecting personal information such as your name, bank account, birth date, driver's license, e-mail address, home address, passwords, phone number, photos and Social Security number.
  8. Phishing and vishing scams. Learn how to identify phishing scams by paying close attention to e-mails from financial institutions, the Internal Revenue Service and retail marketing organizations asking for personal information. No credible company or government agency will ask for your personal information via e-mail and/or phone calls.
  9. Privacy policies. Learn and understand the privacy policies of any application or social media site that you use. Use discretion in downloading apps.
  10. Privacy settings. Learn, understand and use the privacy settings of the apps and social media sites that you use.
  11. Shredding. Purchase and use a shredder to shred your documents containing personal information.
  12. Social media. Review, update and confirm the personal and professional information that you have on any social network. Do not communicate to the world where you are and when, as criminals want to know when you are not home.
  13. Wireless Internet. Be careful of wireless Internet use, and make sure that the wireless network you are using is password protected. Be aware that hackers can hack into wireless Internet networks and can view what you are viewing, such as bank account information.

Protect you or your business by being prepared and vigilant as ID theft criminals increase their attacks during the holidays.


To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


Scam Alert -- Holiday Shoppers, Look Out for Gift Card Payment Con

November 30, 2015

This holiday shopping season, be on the lookout for a new scam technique. As shoppers become wary of paying by wire transfer and pre-paid debit card, scammers are trying something new. They are requesting victims purchase and pay with gift cards.

How the Scam Works:

You are shopping online and discover a website that sells flat screen TVs, computers, cameras and other big ticket items for deeply discounted prices. You do some research, and find a few reviews from satisfied customers. The price is so great, you decide to give it a try.

During checkout, the site instructs you to purchase an Amazon gift card and use the gift card information as payment. The site may claim that this unorthodox form of payment helps you save paying sales tax.

No matter what the website says, don't do it! The site -- and the good reviews -- are all fake. Paying by gift card is just like wiring money, using a pre-paid debit card, or paying cash; it's untraceable. You will be out the money spent on the gift card, and the item you purchased will never arrive.

Protect Yourself from an Online Shopping Scam

  • If the price seems to good to be true, there's probably something wrong. Be wary if the item is selling for significantly lower than what you've seen elsewhere.
  • Beware of high pressure sales. Scammers want to get your money before you have time to think or get a second opinion on the deal.
  • Watch out for sellers who won't take credit cards. Beware of sellers that requires you to wire money, use a prepaid debit card, or pay by gift card.
  • Check for legitimate contact information. Make sure the seller has a real phone number and address on the website, so you can contact them in case of problems. When in doubt, type the phone number into a search engine and see if it matches the seller, or if others have expressed concerns or filed complaints.
  • Make sure websites are secure and authenticated. Before you purchase an item online, look for "https" before the web address and a small lock symbol that ensure your credit card and/or banking information is secure.

For More Information

Check out this story from CBS Boston and read the alert from the Federal Trade Commission.

To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam).

Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau - for more information visit http://www.bbb.org/phoenix/news-events/

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.