San Diego, CA. - The ICFE's friends at the nationally
recognized Identity Theft Resource Center here in San
Diego have put together a beneficial list of steps for
people to take in order to reduce the chances of your
becoming a victim of credit and identity theft this
holiday season. With their permission, here is the
ITRC's list of tips from their Web site at
The Identity Theft Resource Center gets more calls about
lost and stolen wallets between November and January
than any other time of the year. The time between
Thanksgiving and Christmas is the biggest shopping
season of the year. As we enter the holiday season, we
would like to remind everyone to be aware and take the
following precautions against identity theft. After all,
tis' the season to enjoy, not be stressed as an identity
Identity theft is not just something you read about in
the paper. About 15 million people fall victim to this
crime every year. Because of the distractions of the
holidays and crowded shopping environments, conditions
are ripe for identity thieves and pickpockets to take
advantage of the situation.
The following are the Identity Theft Resource Center's
Tips and Suggestions to be safe during the holiday
' Social Security Numbers: Absolutely, never carry your
Social Security card or its number. Only carry it on the
days you need it (i.e. applying for a job) and keep it
in a locked box at all other times. This is true not
only during the holidays but year-round. The Social
Security Number is more valuable than gold to identity
' Mail Awareness: Watch for monthly statements. We all
know that the holidays will cause some mailing delays.
However, if you have not received these documents within
a few days of their regularly scheduled dates, contact
the bank or creditor as well as the Post Office. Watch
for holiday gifts, tax bills, SSA statements, cards and
even pre-approved credit card offers. Failure to receive
a bill could be as innocent as a delay, or it could be
an indicator of mail theft. Remember, a locked mailbox
is a necessityin today's world.
' Mailing bills: Every year we see post office boxes
filled to overflowing with outgoing mail. We recommend
that you mail envelopes containing checks or sensitive
information inside the post office before the last
pickup of the day. During the holidays, make sure that
the post office box is sufficiently empty so that that
your mail doesn't sit within easy reach of someone's
' Shoulder surfing: Shoppers often open new credit cards
to cover large holiday purchases. This makes it a
perfect time for shoulder surfers to "borrow" sensitive
information. Take a few extra moments to protect credit
cards, driver's licenses and checks from wandering eyes.
Instead of verbally sharing requested sensitive
information, write it down for the clerk and take that
slip of paper home with you. And don't forget that while
you sit waiting for a plane or walk down the street,
anyone can hear your cell phone conversation. Don't
share your credit card numbers or Social Security Number
in an open, public environment.
' Credit card receipts: It is now mandatory that
businesses truncate all but the last 5 numbers on credit
card numbers and the expiration date on the customer
copy of receipts. If the number is not truncated, place
it in a secure location in your wallet. Do not throw
receipts in purchase bags. Pickpockets and thieves most
likely won't steal grandma's new sweater, but they will
be happy to take the receipt that may have your credit
card number on it.
' Credit Card Skimming: Credit card skimming occurs when
a clerk slides your credit card through a second machine
that scans the information from the magnetic strip and
stores it until it is downloaded onto a counterfeit
card. Remember, "Out of sight, out of control." Keep
your eyes on your cards at all times. Don't let a clerk
or accomplice distract you from the transaction.
' Information protection: Cross-cut shred any receipts
you no longer want, especially those with credit card
numbers on them. Lock up any documents with financial,
credit or Social Security information on them BEFORE
allowing guests into your home for that holiday party.
Be stingy with your Social Security Number - there are
only a limited number of reasons a company might need
it. Add passwords to all your credit card accounts,
financial accounts and utility accounts to verify your
' Dumpster diving: We all get more mail than we can deal
with at this time of year. Take the time to look through
each envelope. Don't assume an envelope contains a
business gift card or advertisement. It may well be a
pre-approved credit card offer or transfer balance check
that looks a greeting card. Confetti shred any documents
that contain bar codes or sensitive data or something
someone could use to steal an identity.
' Online Shopping: Keep a printout of the web page(s)
describing the item you ordered, any email messages, and
the page that shows the seller's name, address,
telephone number and return policies should you have any
problems. For online purposes, it is not necessary to
provide a Social Security Number. A credit card number
is preferred for on-line purchases. Make sure the
company is on a secure server with "https" and a locked
' Purse snatching and pickpockets: Minimize what you
carry with you. Credit cards, debit cards, check books,
and deposit slips are the easiest items for a thief to
use. Make it difficult for a thief to access your
information. Unzipped purses, backpacks or open bags are
open invitations to pickpockets. If carrying a purse,
loop the strap over your shoulder and have the
clasp-side of the purse against the FRONT of your body.
' Car theft issues: Don't leave your laptop, purse, or
any item with credit cards, checks, a driver's license
or Social Security Numbers visible in your car. It's an
invitation to steal. The best way to handle this is to
lock these items in the trunk of your car while you are
in the garage and not when you arrive at your
' Debit cards are not credit cards: Debit cards are a
direct link to your bank account. When you use a credit
card, you receive a billing statement, giving you time
to "dispute" fraudulent activity before paying the bill.
Debit cards electronically transfer money immediately.
ITRC recommends that you leave these in a safe location
at home during the holidays.
' Check writing: Write checks with a gel pen with
specially formulated ink that absorbs into the paper
fibers or one with non-erasable ink. This makes it
harder for a thief to alter.
With some additional awareness, the holiday season
doesn't have to be an open door to identity thieves.
While you cannot completely prevent yourself from
becoming a victim, following these tips should prevent
you from being an easy target.
The Identity Theft Resource Center is a non-profit
organization established to support victims of identity
theft in resolving their cases, and to broaden public
education and awareness in the understanding of identity
theft. It is the on-going mission of the ITRC to assist
victims, educate consumers, research identity theft and
increase public and corporate awareness about this
About the ICFE:
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation). The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely.
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.
The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (studentdebthelp.org). CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed. In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the (studentdebthelp.org) web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.
The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much. ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.
Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: www.financial-education-icfe.org and studentdebthelp.org. Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G, a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.