Protect against credit fraud and identity theft during the holidays

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. John Orrell
  • National Guard Bureau
With the holiday shopping season underway, servicemembers need to ensure they are taking the proper steps to protect themselves from credit fraud and identity theft, the National Guard Bureau's chief privacy officer said.

"Monitoring bank accounts, setting up e-mail or text message alerts to inform you of suspicious activity on your account(s) and setting up a free-of-charge fraud alert on your credit report are some good ways to start protecting yourself," said Jennifer Nikolaisen.

Remembering some simple steps when making purchases or traveling can be the difference between information protection and financial failure, she said.

First, "make sure ... statements that have your credit card number or personal information are shredded after you are done with them; not recycled, but shredded," she said.

Next, "Pay attention to your surroundings," Ms. Nikolaisen said. "When making purchases, be aware so that no one can see you enter your pin number or try to swap credit cards."

And finally, "Be smart with on-line purchases," she said. "If there is not an HTTPS in the URL of a webpage, then it isn't a creditable website and your information could be stolen."

Ms. Nikolaisen said there has been a rise in identity thefts resulting from use of social media sites.

"If you have a social-media site ... and you put on your (page) that you're going to be out of town or use the check-in tool that gives your location, that alerts people that you are away from your home," she said.

Thieves can break into a house and steal personal information, then set up lines-of-credit, which often aren't discovered until after the damage has been done, she said.

Social media is also an issue with children as well, Ms. Nikolaisen said.

"Kids are not always as aware," she said  "They shouldn't let people know they're out of town for the holidays."

Ms. Nikolaisen recommends that servicemembers go to the Federal Trade Commission's website which has important tips and tools on information protection or the Identity Theft Resource Center if they already have been a victim of identity theft or credit fraud.