Christmas may be a time of giving, but the last thing you want to
give is your identity to fraudsters and become a victim of identity theft.
Increased spending, travelling, and socialising during the festive season result in many people letting their guard down, meaning opportunities for thieves to steal their identities are increased.
CreditExpert has identified the top high risk area of the festive season and the Top Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to protecting your self against identity theft this Christmas:
1. Don’t ever let anyone see your PIN when you are using a cash machine or in-store card reader
It is easy to get absorbed in your Christmas shopping, but don’t become so focused that you fail to notice a shoulder surfer jotting down your PIN number. Check the actual machines carefully too – in worst case scenarios thieves can position devices that copy or eat your card, you can never be too careful.
2. Don’t let you’re credit card go out of your sight whilst making payments
When eating out, don’t let the waiter take your card away, even for a short period; ask for the card processor to be brought up to your table or if you can pay on the way out, this can prevent your account details being copied – you don’t want a thief to enjoy a very merry Christmas all at your expense.
3. Avoid leaving your rubbish unattended
Make sure your rubbish bags aren’t seen as present sacks by thieves. During the Christmas period, rubbish bin collection times will tend to vary, shredding any sensitive information and making sure your rubbish isn’t sitting outside for longer than it has to is advisable.
4. Take steps if your usual Christmas cards don’t arrive, don’t ignore it.
Communal halls in flats give unscrupulous parties the perfect opportunity to intercept or redirect your mail. If you’ve moved home recently, your cards may be opened by the new occupant at your old address. Also, visiting family or taking an Xmas holiday can mean that your post is left unopened and unchecked, or even worse – hanging out of the letterbox. To a fraudster this is like an invitation for them to harvest your personal details.
5. Be careful when sending cheques by post
We all love receiving money in the post, but be careful when sending cheques to friends and family. They not only contain your title, name and bank account details, but also your personal signature; if a fraudster intercepts one of your cheques in the post, they could use this information in all means of fraudulent ways.
6. Don’t stray from your normal financial routin
Even if your travelling away from home or feeling all the more relaxed during the Festive period, you should still take the time to check your bank statements, important documents and your credit report to ensure you haven’t fallen victim to identity thieves.
7. And finally, go easy on the sherry!
Increased alcohol consumption and heavy parting through the Christmas season might make you less vigilant about protecting your personal property. Remember that not everybody in the bar, club or restaurant may be totally honest, avoid leaving your belongings unattended and giving away any personal information to stranger, or where you may be overheard. You could lose more than your taxi fare home, if someone swipes your bag, coat or wallet.
Tips to Beat the Identity Fraudsters:
1. Let your bank, lenders and the police know if your wallet or bag is stolen
They can stop anybody else using your accounts, give you vital emergency access to the cash you’llneed and help you to track down the criminals before they have a chance to trash your credit rating or clear out your life saving bank account.
2. Go through your bank and credit card statements thoroughly
You may not know that your personal identity has been compromised until you see strange transactions you don’t recognise on your statements. Tell the relevant lender or bank immediately and let them know that you are worried your identity has been stolen.
3. Shred all your sensitive documents and receipts before consigning them to the bin
It’s tempting to throw away piles of papers as you tidy up but ensure you shred anything that shows your personal information, even items with just your name and address on, before they reach the bin – or better still safely throw them on the fire.
4. Be vigilant about your mail
Intercepting post is a favourite trick of fraudsters, who can easily take out a loan and or accept card offers this way, make sure you don’t provide them with all the personal details they need to make a successful application. Catalogues, showing your account details, are another favourite way to use your identity to steal from the company concerned. Always inform the Post Office if you aren’t receiving post you expect and redirect your mail for at least a year when moving house.
5. Check your credit report on a regular basis
The credit report is a vital part of your ‘financial CV’, it lists your past and present credit commitments and repayment history (including credit cards, mortgages and loans). Lenders look at your credit report when you apply for credit. By checking your report regularly, you can easily see if somebody is impersonating you and trying to borrow money in your name.
6. Ask for assistance
CreditExpert can help you set the record straight if you are unfortunate enough to become a victim of identity fraud. They will put you in touch with Experian’s team of fraud specialists, who have already supported 1000’s of people through the long and stressful process of sorting out the muddle left by an identity fraudster.
Most of us spend and borrow more than normal so it’s especially important to monitor our finances. With just a few personal details, identity fraudsters can steal your identity and wreak havoc on your credit rating, making your Merry Christmas more of a nightmare.
It’s vital for people to check their credit report to ensure they have not fallen victim to identity fraud. A bad credit rating can make the difference between being offered a loan or not. An online monitoring service such as CreditExpert is a simple way to keep on top of your credit history – and will alert you to any major changes on your Experian credit report, which is good protection against identity theft.”