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Consumer Tips for the Holidays

Protecting your identity during the holiday season

Keeping your sensitive information safe

It’s once again the time of year when consumers are making
plans to visit relatives, host festive get-togethers, and, of course,
hit the stores (or computer) for some shopping. Unfortunately,
the flurry of activity that goes hand-in-hand with the holidays
presents a prime opportunity for a data thief to practice his
trade. With that in mind, put the protection of sensitive personal
information at the top of your holiday to-do list.

Kroll’s Investigators offer the following tips that can help
consumers keep their sensitive information safe:

Tip #1: Practice safe shopping in stores

» Before you hit the stores, take stock of what you bring along
with you in your purse/wallet. Remove unnecessary key
identity components. Make a list of what remains so you’ll
know what is missing if your purse/wallet is lost or stolen.

» Consider your preferred method of payment—each has pros
and cons. Generally, from a theft standpoint, credit cards
are safer because, unlike debit cards, you usually have
more protection against fraudulent charges. Cash is another
option, but while you will not have to worry about personal
identifiers, it will be gone for good if stolen. Be very careful
with checkbooks, as stolen checks can give the thief access
to your checking account.

Tip #2: Practice safe shopping online

» Never use a public computer (like those found at the library)
to perform online financial transactions. Likewise, if the
coffee shop is offering free—yet unsecured—wi-fi, don’t be
tempted to use your computer to buy anything there either.
You never know if a public computer contains some type
of malware, and thieves can steal data via an unsecured
wireless internet hookup.

» When using your own computer, periodically install your
security software’s latest update and run a scan of your
computer. Beyond that, practice smart shopping by visiting
reputable sites and being wary of phishing scams that trick
you into giving up personal information.

Tip: Never use a public computer (like those found at the
library) to perform online financial transactions.

» Just as you would keep receipts from the stores, keep a
record of all your online transactions. Check your debit/
credit accounts to make sure only the transactions
you’ve authorized have been registered. If you see any
unauthorized transactions, dispute them with your
financial institution immediately.

Tip #3: Think before mailing holiday cards

» E-cards are convenient and fun, but beware: disreputable
e-card websites may load malware on your computer and
may send it along to all of your recipients as well. Send
e-cards from a reputable source, and check the end-user
agreements to ensure that no software will be downloaded
as a condition of using the service. If you’re receiving the
cards, beware of cards that have generic sender information,
such as “a friend” or “a relative.” If the card comes with an
attachment, particularly an executable (.exe) attachment, it’s
best to delete it.

» Snail mail is still a popular way to send greetings and gifts,
particularly gift cards or checks. If you send a check, use a
dark, pigmented ink that can’t be easily “washed.” Washing
is a process a thief uses to take away the ink on your check
so it can be rewritten to them, with a higher dollar amount.

» Never leave mail with sensitive information in an unlocked
mailbox—mail it from an official USPS mail drop box.
For items that arrive at your home, you might consider
purchasing a locking mailbox.

A service of the Investigators of Kroll

These materials are derived from the research and discovery activities of Kroll’s Fraud Specialists and Licensed Investigators, and have been gathered from personal, historical, and aggregated experience performing specialized restoration services on behalf of Identity Theft victims. While believed to be accurate, these materials do not constitute legal advice, and are not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up-to-date. No part of this document may be reproduced, transmitted, transcribed, stored in a retrieval system, or translated into a language or computer language, in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, optical, chemical, manual or otherwise, without the express written consent of Kroll. These materials are provided for informational purposes only.

Tip #4: Protect yourself and your guests at
home for the holidays

» Secure any documentation in your home that may
contain sensitive information, such as bank statements,
checkbooks, credit cards, Social Security cards, etc. Keep
these items in a locked cabinet, if possible, and in an area
that will be inaccessible to guests. For your guests, assign
a safe area to keep purses and other personal items.
Make sure only one person is allowed to collect
or retrieve these items.

Tip #5: Protect personal information
while traveling

» Never leave sensitive information in your hotel room or
car. If you wish to leave your laptop in the hotel, be sure
to put it in your room safe. Or, consult hotel management
to arrange for storage in a centralized main safe or
secure holding area.

» Further, beware of pretexting, or social engineering
calls, while staying at the hotel. This scam has become
extremely popular, so much so that many hotels now
post warnings to hotel guests not to provide their
personal information, particularly credit card information,
over the phone. The front desk already has this
information on file and has no need to call you for it. If
you do get a call, ask for the person’s name and call the
front desk yourself to verify.

Tip: Never leave sensitive information in your hotel room
or car. If you wish to leave your laptop in the hotel, be sure
to put it in your room safe.
posted by Jim Valek on Mon., Nov 19th, 2012 in Identity Theft Insurance



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