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Holidays Likely to Cause Spike in ID Theft

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Identity thieves could come out in droves this holiday season. The busy shopping time presents numerous opportunities for thieves to steal your financial information.

"Identity thieves see the holidays as a potentially lucrative time of year," said Kirk Herath, Nationwide's chief privacy officer and a renowned expert on identity theft. "The holidays mean more trips to the mall, more online purchasing and more opportunities for identity thieves. The more you buy, the more times your financial information is put at risk."

The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to be aware and protect your information, he said.

Thieves often use one of several techniques when stealing personal financial information, Herath said. Here are some of the most common ways identities are stolen and ways to protect yourself.

"The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to be aware and protect your information."

Shoulder Surfing: Hurried shoppers and long check out lines present a perfect opportunity for a thief to quietly look over your shoulder and steal your financial information.

  • To protect yourself from shoulder surfers, be aware of your environment and shield your credit cards, checks, driver's licenses and PIN numbers from wandering eyes. Also, watch out for thieves using camera phones to snap a photo of your account number and card.
Skimming: Shopper information can also be stolen when a clerk slides a credit card though a second machine -- unrelated to the purchase -- that scans the information from the magnetic strip and stores it until it can be downloaded onto a counterfeit card.
  • To protect yourself from skimming, pay with cash whenever you can. When using a credit card, keep your eyes on it at all times and carefully review your statements for unwarranted charges.

Online scams: Ordering presents online presents opportunities for thieves to pose as legitimate retailers or for them to collect financial information traveling over the Internet through an unsecured Web site.

  • To avoid becoming a victim online, don't trust a company that asks you to provide a Social Security number and keep a printed copy of your online order confirmations.

Phishing: Some thieves trick people into giving up personal information online by sending phony emails with links to fake corporate Web sites asking you to update your billing information. By visiting the site and entering the personal information, victims inadvertently give the criminals their credit card numbers, PINs and even Social Security numbers.

"The holidays mean more trips to the mall, more online purchasing and more opportunities for identity thieves. The more you buy, the more times your financial information is put at risk."
    • Legitimate companies would not ask you to provide sensitive information like this over email. Do not provide the information in response to an emailed request.

    Phone scams: Be cautious in giving information to telephone solicitors over the holiday season.
  • Ask the solicitors to mail something.

    Dumpster diving: Thieves will go through your garbage looking for credit card receipts, etc. to retrieve your personal identification.

  • Shred anything with a bar-code or other sensitive information.
Thieves are creative and resourceful. They will continue to come up with new ways to steal information. One way to be sure you are protected if you fall victim to this crime, is to purchase an identity theft protection product - like Nationwide's Identity Theft protection service with credit monitoring. That way if you do become a victim, Nationwide will be there to help you get back on your feet as soon as possible.

Copyright (2006) PR Newswire.  All Rights Reserved.

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