Guard against ID theft during the holidays

The holidays br ing ma ny delights, along with some unwanted risks.

Pick-pockets and robbers often prey on distracted shoppers. But today’s consumers should also guard against ident ity thieves, said Dr. Lynne Vieraitis, associate professor of criminology at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Whet her shopping online or via phone, Vieraitis recommends using common sense and verifying that you’re dealing with a reputable company before giving out any personal information.

When you’re in a store, keep an eye on who handles your cards. She recommends using cash or credit cards rather than debit while shopping.

“It is better to have a thief max out your credit card than empty your checking account,” Vieraitis said.

Be wary in restaurants, too.

“I never use my debit card at a restaurant or any establishment where it w ill leave my sight,” she said.

Because you can’t guard against all scammers, monitor your bank and credit card accounts regularly.

Check your credit report routinely.

And if your identification documents (driver’s license, Social Security card, credit cards, etc.) are stolen, minimize potential damage by reporting the theft to any appropriate agencies: the Department of Motor Vehicles, credit card company, and the Social Security Administration.

Vieraitis said victims should file a report w ith their local police department, keep a copy of the report and submit another repor t to t he Federa l Trade Commission’s website.

Even if the thief does not immediately charge your credit card or use your information to commit fraud, victims should consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on their credit reports right away.

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2010-12-02 digital edition

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