While it may seem like a relief to get through the holidays unscathed by identity theft, the weeks following the holiday season are when it’s important to pay attention to your bank statements, credit card transactions and credit reports.
When your personal information is stolen and used without your permission, it can take thieves very little time to rack up massive amounts of purchases – either on your existing accounts or by creating new accounts that you may not even be notified of.
Here are a number of ways you can keep an eye out for identity theft and protect yourself.
- Be cautious of phishing emails that may try to replicate the look of legitimate businesses. Don’t open any attachments or click any links that seem suspicious. Instead, look up the phone number or email address on the main website of the business and contact them yourself.
- Buy a paper shredder and make sure to regularly shred old mail, bills and other sensitive documents that include your personal information on them before disposing of them.
- When using public wi-fi networks, such as those at coffee shops and businesses, avoid logging into websites that include sensitive information, such as bank accounts and bill-pay sites. When using shared networks in public spaces, you’re more vulnerable to hackers who may see everything you’re viewing.
- Use best practices when setting account passwords. While password advice has remained the same for years – include punctuation, numbers, and both upper- and lower-case letters – experts have recently revised this advice. They now say to keep passwords simple, long and memorable. Read more from NPR.
- Check your bank accounts, credit statements and other financial information more diligently after the holidays. Also get copies of your credit report annually. You can get one free copy each year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus in the U.S. – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.
Want to do more? Visit USA.gov to learn more about identity theft, scams and fraud. You can also speak with your Long & Foster Insurance representative to find out what additional identity theft protection may be available through your insurance company.