Protect your ID during the holidays

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Beware of crooks looking for more than bargains this coming holiday season. With the excitement of shopping and enjoying the festivities, it’s easy to ignore red flags and wallet safety techniques usually practiced. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), the last quarter of the year offers the biggest shopping season and the greatest opportunity for identity thieves and pickpockets to take advantage of crowded environments.

Because identity theft is still the fastest growing crime in America; affecting more than 10 million victims a year, Money Management International (MMI) in partnership with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and other NFCC Member Agencies will recognize Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW) October 17-23, 2010. Visit ProtectYourIDNow.org to learn how you can learn new safety techniques and get involved in local PYIW initiatives and events offered in your community.

With added protections, fighting ID theft is tough at best, so MMI offers the following everyday tips to help keep your information safe and secure:

• Don’t leave your wallet or statements lying around—even at home.
• Don’t carry Social Security cards or anything with your Social Security number on it.
• Keep track of your credit card receipts and carbons.
• Never tell anyone your card number over the phone, unless you initiate the phone call.
• Never allow your credit card number to be used as identification.
• Collect your mail regularly and destroy unwanted credit solicitations.
• Monitor your credit statements.

If you become a victim, time is of the essence. Acting quickly can help limit the potential impact. Here are the steps to take when someone steals your identity:

• File a police report.
• Immediately notify issuers of credit.
• Contact the fraud department of each of the credit reporting agencies to place a temporary 90-day Fraud Alert on your file.
• Monitor your credit file.
• Contact your local state Attorney General’s office, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission (877-IDTHEFT).

Identity theft is recognized as a serious social issue by agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the United States Secret Service. For more information about protecting your good name, visit www.usdoj.gov or www.consumer.gov.