A Publication of WTVP

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! For all the fun the season brings, there’s nothing like the look of excitement in the eyes of children… and merchants. But no one loves the holidays more than identity thieves. The busyness of the season is the perfect distraction for them to capitalize on, and rob you blind. This year, stop these Grinches in their sleigh tracks! Incorporate these five changes into your daily practice before the hustle and bustle of the season leaves you losing your mind—and your identity:

Charge it! Checks and debit cards withdraw funds directly from your account. If fraud occurs, you could be wiped out. It can take time for reimbursement. Credit cards don’t affect your cash flow, and you have 90 days to report fraud. Banks allow you 30 days to report fraud.

Lock it up! As the spouse of a police officer, I hear it daily. The police are called to cars being broken into when in reality, nothing was broken: the owner left the doors unlocked. Lock your car doors, and don’t leave valuables in your car! The number-one source used to gain information for identity theft is stealing physical items like purses, wallets, mail and computers.

Protect your home. It’s sad to say, but statistics show that 30 to 50 percent of the time, victims know the perpetrator. If you are entertaining for the holidays, make sure checkbooks and other valuables are locked up.

Lighten the load. We have seen videos of purses stolen: from the passenger side of a car while the woman is getting gas, from the shopping cart at the grocery store, or ripped off a woman’s shoulder as she is walking to the car. This holiday season, leave your purse at home. Take your driver’s license and a credit card and put them in your front pocket. The next best option is a small crossbody bag under your coat.

Monitor accounts. By monitoring your accounts and reviewing statements, you’ll catch fraud immediately. If you have become a victim of identity theft, quick action will limit the damage.

This holiday season, we wish you a season filled with joy and laughter. Be merry, but be aware! iBi