I recently received an email that I thought was from my bank asking for some information because supposedly my online bank account access had been compromised. The email looked like it was officially from my bank and at the time I was busy multi-tasking so I was not completely paying 100% attention. To make a long story short I filled out the questionnaire and immediately realized, after submitting their form, that I had been duped by an elaborate phishing scam which had me fooled.
Fortunately, Randy had identity theft protection through his insurance company. Meanwhile, he has learned how to protect himself in the future. He offers the following tips for avoiding identity theft during the holidays (or anytime else, really):
- Do not lend your credit card or debit card to anyone, not even to a family member.
- Never let your credit card out of your sight when making a purchase.
- Make sure the store clerk swipes the card in front of you. If they have to take your card somewhere to swipe it, insist on accompanying them.
- Apply for a store credit card online — do not fill out a paper application that requires your social security number.
- Be careful shopping online or over the phone at work. Someone could be looking over your shoulder or listening to you give out your credit card information to make a purchase.
- If you plan to travel during the holidays, stop your mail and your paper.
- Be aware of your personal space while shopping, and protect your wallets and purses.
- Do not leave personal items (such as a laptop containing your personal information) in your car at a mall parking lot.
- Keep track of all your credit card receipts. Do not throw them away without shredding them first.
- Minimize what you carry in your wallet so that thieves do not get much if they steal it.
- Print out any orders you make online, as well as email exchanges.
- You should never need your social security number to make a purchase.
- Approach online auctions with caution. Before you make a purchase, you should know the rules and return policies of the site, as well as the seller’s terms.
- Shred all credit card offers that come in the mail.
- Go to www.optoutprescreen.com to remove your name from the “firm offer” credit card offers.
And remember my number-one piece of anti-phishing advice: never go to a bank site by clicking on a link in a piece of e-mail. Always go to bank sites — including PayPal — by typing the URL directly into your browser. ALWAYS.
Other semi-related pieces of note:
- Paul’s Tips: The easiest way to fool smart people
- CNNMoney: Scams that sting even smart people
- I Will Teach You To Be Rich: Network marketing is a big fat scam
- CNNMoney: Tricky scams to avoid this holiday
- Money Magazine: Hello, Sucker and Ultimate cyber-safety guide
[Parable of the Talents: Identity theft doesn't stop during the holidays]