By Nancy Mann Jackson
Identity Theft Protection Tips for the Holidays
Over thirteen million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. Thieves use victims' personal information in a variety of ways: draining bank accounts, running up charges on credit cards, or even filing fake tax returns to receive the refunds. Unfortunately, the holiday season—when people are shopping online or using credit cards more frequently—can be a time of increased risk.

Protect yourself from identity fraud this holiday season by following these important tips:

1. Be social-smart. Using social media isn't a no-no, but remember not to share everything. Posting crucial personal information online can make you a target for identity theft. Date of birth, employer information and educational background can give thieves important information that can be used to steal your identity—so ensure your privacy settings protect that information from strangers.

2. Clean out your wallet. We carry lots of sensitive personal materials with us in our bags every day. Unless it's absolutely necessary, never carry your Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, military identification card or more than two credit or debit cards in your wallet. Review what's in your wallet or purse and identify items that could put you at risk if either is lost or stolen.

3. Get a shredder. Identity thieves thrive on dumpster diving—they may go through your trash at home or at work seeking documents with personal information. Don't throw away bank statements, credit card offers, or other sensitive documents without shredding them first.

4. Be mail-aware. Rather than mailing bills and other items in your unlocked home mailbox, mail them in a secure public mailbox. And keep up with incoming mail too. During the holiday season, most people receive more mail and catalogs, so it can take a little extra time to monitor the mailbox. Knowing when bank account and credit card statements, phone and utility bills, and other monthly bills typically arrive in your mail can help you identify if anything is missing.

5. Protect your online data. Ensure your computer's antivirus software is always updated, and if you use wireless Internet access at home, set up a strong password to access the connection. In addition, use a spam filtering solution and never open links or attached files in email messages from unknown or uncertain sources, especially if they claim to come from financial institutions, credit card companies, or government agencies.

6. Get help monitoring your personal information. Unfortunately, there is always a risk that despite taking the best precautions, identity theft could happen to you. One way to stay on top of the threat is by signing up for a credit monitoring product that can help you spot and address identity theft before it spirals out of control.

Don't put yourself in a position to be a victim of holiday fraud. Learn more smart ways to protect your identity.

Liberty Mutual is proud to have a partnership with ProtectMyID from Experian, which provides a daily Internet scan to monitor changes in credit reports from all three credit bureaus, as well as lost wallet protection, up to $1 million in identity theft insurance and one-on-one fraud resolution assistance. Find more information on how you could save $75 on ProtectMyID from Experian.


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