The commotion of the holiday shopping season can bring an unfortunate extra for many Milwaukee-area shoppers – an increased risk of identity theft. Open wallets, distracting trinkets by the cash register, even a Grinch with a camera phone focused on your credit card can turn a simple trip to the store into months of post-holiday red tape and agony.
While the holiday season is all about giving, giving someone your identity is going a little too far. That’s why North Shore Bank recently partnered with LifeLock, one of the nation’s leading identity protection services – we want to help educate consumers and keep them safe.
North Shore Bank and LifeLock offer the following shopping tips to protect yourself during the holidays and every day:
- Guard your card. Make sure store clerks swipe credit cards in front of you. If they must take a card somewhere else to swipe, go with them.
- Keep private information private. Resist the urge to apply for a store credit card – and give out your Social Security number – at the register.
- Leave your checkbook at home. Checks are a jackpot of personal information – name, address, account and routing numbers, driver’s license numbers and more.
- Carry your money, credit cards, ID and other important papers securely. Unzipped purses, backpacks and open bags are invitations to trouble.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Watch out for "shoulder surfers," people hovering to see (or photograph) sensitive information on credit cards, driver’s licenses, receipts and other documents.
- Take care with your car. Don’t leave personal items, such as a laptop with personal data or even an old credit card receipt or checkbook, in your car at a shopping center parking lot.
- Keep track of your receipts. It’s easy to throw a receipt into the shopping bag, but it’s safer in your wallet. And always shred credit card receipts before throwing them away.
- Keep tabs on your accounts. Don’t postpone your paperwork – monitor your bank and credit card accounts online and review your statements right away, even during the holidays. Contact your bank or credit card company immediately if you spot anything unusual.
- Make it hard for criminals. Take steps to make your personal information useless to anyone but you. Place fraud alerts with the three major credit bureaus, order/check your credit reports and remove yourself from the Direct Marketing Association lists. The experts at LifeLock can do all of this for you, and provide a guarantee your identity will be safe.
By using a little common sense and being aware of your surroundings, it’s easy to have a safe, happy holiday.
Steve Steiner is senior vice president of retail banking for North Shore Bank, which is based in Brookfield.