Nashville, TN – As the largest holiday shopping event of the year approaches, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s Identity Crimes Unit warns consumers to beware of identity theft during the celebratory season.
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. Last year, for the 12th consecutive year, identity theft led the list of consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Eighteen percent of the more than two million complaints filed with the FTC were identity-theft related.“We want to take this opportunity to remind holiday shoppers to take precautions to protect their identity during the holiday season,” Captain Stacy Williams said, who oversees the Identity Crimes Unit. “The Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales allow more chances for identity thieves to victimize buyers. However, if consumers manage their personal information carefully, it will reduce the risk of identity theft.”
According to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research, there were over a million more victims of identity theft in 2012 compared to 2011. That’s 12.6 million Americans who became identity theft victims last year, resulting in more than $21 billion in damages.
The Identity Crimes Unit offers these tips to help keep holiday shoppers safe:
- When paying by credit card, don’t allow clerks to put your receipts in your bag. Instead, carry receipts in your wallet where they are safer and less likely to fall out of bags.
- Watch cashiers, waiters, and bartenders, ensuring that they don’t “skim” or save your card number for later use.
- When paying by check. Never allow merchants to write your social security number on the check.
- Use a gel ink pen—preferably black—to write checks. The ink will permeate the fibers and make it difficult for the check to be cleaned and reused.
- When shopping online, be careful of wireless internet connections. Only use those that require a security key or certificate.
- Shop on secure, reputable websites by looking for addresses that start with “https” and include a small padlock icon.
- Never offer personal information, especially your social security number, to online stores.
- Leave suspicious websites immediately.
- Read customer reviews before ordering products.
- Use a credit card and not a debit card, which makes it harder for you to get funds back and gives thieves access to funds in your bank account.
- Avoid carrying a social security card, birth certificate, passport, bank information or paychecks when hitting the stores. You could easily lose them and identity thieves find these particularly helpful.
- Check your bank statements, credit card bills, and credit reports often, helping to quickly catch any efforts to use your identity.
For more information on identity theft security tips, please visit the state’s Office of Homeland Security: http://www.tn.gov/homelandsecurity
If you have been the victim of an identity crime, help is available by downloading a resource kit at the following link: http://www.tn.gov/safety/ICU.shtml
About the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure that our state is a safe, secure place in which to live, work and travel; enforce the law with integrity; and provide customer-focused services professionally and efficiently.