Identity Theft is Especially Bad During the Holidays
With fewer shopping days than usual this holiday season, shopping seems to be all anyone is talking about. While we’re all consumed by shopping madness, we might not be focused on identity theft, which is exactly what these thieves are hoping. Getting lost in an ocean of fellow shoppers and stressing over crossing every item off your list is exhausting; many of us lose sight of the importance of protecting our credit cards, checks, and other personal info around the holiday season.
Identity theft happens in a number of ways. If a thief gets a hold of your personal information, they can open credit cards or even take out a loan in your name. They can also wipe out your bank account, all without your knowledge. Identity theft is hugely problematic, beside the fact that you’ll have money stolen from you, your credit score can be severely impacted, and it can take a long time to clean up your muddied financial records. While recovering from identity theft, you may be unable to take out a line of credit or even find a job due to the damage that’s been done on your credit score, even though none of it was your fault.
Standard homeowner’s insurance policies and renter’s insurance policies sometimes have a limited amount of coverage to protect you against having your money or credit cards stolen, but they don’t always have coverage for identity theft. It’s important to check the specifics of your policy so that you know what coverage you have. If you don’t have enough identity theft protection, or don’t have any at all, you should check to see if you’re able to add it onto your existing policy, or you may have to purchase a separate policy.
Identity Theft Policies: What’s Included and What Isn’t?
Generally speaking, an identity theft policy will cover the restoration and repair of a victim’s credit identity. Expenses that are often included are:
- Phone bills
- Lost wages
- Notary and certified mailing costs
- Attorney fees
Although it may seem practical considering the situation, it’s important for you to be aware that most identity theft policies do not cover direct monetary losses. This means that the money that’s stolen from you will likely not be covered by your identity theft protection policy. Usually that money is protected by your bank’s insurance policy, so it’s important to read the fine print when taking out credit cards or any other lines of credit, to see what their policies on identity theft entail.
Keep Yourself Safe This Season
Here are some tips to consider when you’re checking items off your shopping list this holiday season:
- Always shield the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN for debit card transactions, and when withdrawing money from an ATM.
- Always keep your credit card in sight when making purchases, and be sure to return it to your wallet as soon as it’s handed back to you.
- Monitor the activity on all of your accounts to be sure all your purchases are legitimate. Most banks have smartphone apps to make this super convenient. Regularly checking your bank and credit card accounts can nip identity theft in the bud by catching it quickly. If you notice any suspicious activity on your accounts, inform your bank immediately.
- Your purse is probably already packed with a ton of stuff, so keep the personal information you carry around to a minimum. Only having personal information that you absolutely need on you is a good way to keep it from falling into the wrong hands.
- If you don’t need your ATM or credit card receipts, and you’re asked if you want one or not, opt to save some trees. If you do need your receipts, make sure you hold onto them and don’t discard them in public trash cans. When you do discard them, be sure to tear them up so none of your personal information is legible.
- Make sure you always have your screen lock on your phone password protected. As we mentioned earlier, having banking apps on your phone make managing and monitoring your finances a breeze, but that also provides thieves easier access if they can get into your phone!
- Only make online purchases through reputable vendors that have secure payment gateways. Any site that uses a security system for personal information will have a graphic badge that indicates that their site is secure.
- Shred all of your mail or any documents that have personal information on them.
No matter how careful you are, everyone is susceptible to identity theft. Being careful definitely reduces your risk, so it’s important to stay vigilant, but it’s also important to make sure you have the right protection in case you do fall victim to identity thieves.