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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

7 Ways to Avoid Identity Theft This Holiday Shopping Season

You probably didn't know this, but the holiday shopping season is prime time for identity thieves. Cyber-criminals know that during this hectic season, you and millions of others like you become more lax with their personal and financial information, leaving a great opening for thieves for stealing everything from your credit card numbers and more importantly, your personal identities. Think about it, in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we all get caught up in purchasing and gift giving, that we lose track of keeping up with finances. Stealing credit card information is one of the goals of criminals, but ultimately they want your identity. Want to keep your identity safe, follow these steps during the Holiday Shopping Season and beyond.

1. Check your financial accounts often. Get with the times and sign up for online banking with your financial institution. If you have members of your family who haven't signed up, convince them to do the same as well. You might think you're opening up yourself to risk by signing up for online banking, but it's one of the best things you can do to stay on top of your money. Check your debit and credit accounts often to ensure nothing is amiss.

2. Beware of Credit Card Skimmers. Credit card skimming at ATMs, gas stations and other locations are becoming more common, so pay attention to your surroundings. Skimmers attach to existing devices and are designed for quick removal. If you have to use credit card reader you aren't use to using, look for signs of tampering before placing your card into the reader.

3. Sign up for alerts from your financial institution. Your bank and credit card company offers mobile alert services that let you know when suspicious purchasse has been made. These services will help you catch fraud faster, which makes remedying the situation that much easier.

4. Keep track of your smartphone. Your phone contains tons of information about your financial habits and accounts. Keep track of your smartphone at all times. Enable “find my phone”feature just in case you lose your phone, Make sure you keep your phone protected with a strong passcode.

5. Be careful when using public WiFi. Yes, it's convenient to use that public WiFi, but you don't want to use them to make purchases online or to log into your financial accounts. Criminals can set up shop and tap into your computer to siphon your data.

6. Only enter personal information on secure websites. Sites with an HTTPS address have a stronger security protocol than sites with the regular HTTP address. Only enter information in secure sites.

7. Monitor your credit score. There are many services that offer free credit reports. Check your credit before the Holiday Season and after the holidays to make sure you haven't been taken advantage of.

Have you ever dealt with identity theft or credit card fraud around the holidays? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

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