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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Make Your Holidays ID Theft Free

You don’t want to wake up Christmas morning with an ID thief under your tree. You may have already heard it a hundred times, but I’m going to say it again. Protect your name and personal data at all times, particularly in the rush of holiday purchases. That’s when you’re most likely to be victimized at the traditional retail locations.

Transactions occur so quickly that you can’t follow the trail of your credit card. A dishonest clerk can copy your account number without being caught and sell it to the crook who either uses it or resells the number. It’s a business, and even organized crime has been involved through bribing employees to steal your private information.

In an article on the TechNewsWorld site by Gene Koprowski, “Forecast: ID Theft by Insiders to Grow Dramatically in ’06,” he is predicting this increased activity by store personnel because retailers are not educating employees about the value of protecting consumer data. In my experience, you’re lucky during the holidays to find someone to help you with knowledge of what they are selling, much less being skilled in protecting your personal data.

Greg Simmons has written an article for FoxNews.com you should read: “Holiday Shoppers Vulnerable to ID Theft.” He tells you why you should worry about identity theft; it won’t hurt to review some of these time-tested bits of advice. He covers a range of possibilities where you can fall victim to the fraud and makes one excellent point: You have to be in control because police departments across the country do not have the officers for investigation.

You also need to make sure your on-line purchases are secure, dealing with companies either you know or those that come highly recommended by others. Always look for the “lock.”

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, about 22 percent of victims reported their identity stolen from charges over the Internet in 2004, which was almost a ten-percent increase over 2003. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse estimates almost 2 million U.S. adult Internet users were victimized in 2004 and many consumers are beginning to weigh the risk against the convenience.

The above isn’t meant to frighten you into a corner where you are afraid to deal with the outside world. The purpose of all this advice is to make aware shoppers out of all of you so that you take command of your personal life. And, hopefully in 2006, we can convince Congress to give all consumers control over their names and personal data and pay them for its use.