Protect your ID during the holidays

Beware of crooks looking for more than bargains this coming holiday season. With the excitement of shopping and enjoying the festivities, it’s easy to ignore red flags and wallet safety techniques usually practiced. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), the last quarter of the year offers the biggest shopping season and the greatest opportunity for identity thieves and pickpockets to take advantage of crowded environments.

Because identity theft is still the fastest growing crime in America; affecting more than 10 million victims a year, Money Management International (MMI) in partnership with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and other NFCC Member Agencies will recognize Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW) October 17-23, 2010. Visit ProtectYourIDNow.org to learn how you can learn new safety techniques and get involved in local PYIW initiatives and events offered in your community.

With added protections, fighting ID theft is tough at best, so MMI offers the following everyday tips to help keep your information safe and secure:

  • Don’t leave your wallet or statements lying around—even at home.
  • Don’t carry Social Security cards or anything with your Social Security number on it.
  • Keep track of your credit card receipts and carbons.
  • Never tell anyone your card number over the phone, unless you initiate the phone call.
  • Never allow your credit card number to be used as identification.
  • Collect your mail regularly and destroy unwanted credit solicitations.
  • Monitor your credit statements.

If you become a victim, time is of the essence. Acting quickly can help limit the potential impact. Here are the steps to take when someone steals your identity:

  • File a police report.
  • Immediately notify issuers of credit.
  • Contact the fraud department of each of the credit reporting agencies to place a temporary 90-day Fraud Alert on your file.
  • Monitor your credit file.
  • Contact your local state Attorney General’s office, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission (877-IDTHEFT).

Identity theft is recognized as a serious social issue by agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the United States Secret Service. For more information about protecting your good name, visit www.usdoj.gov or www.consumer.gov.

You might also enjoy reading:

ID Theft: When you know the thief

Why would anyone want to be me?

Be a safe Internet shopper

Tanisha (Warner) Smith is a former communications manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.