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Don’t Give ID Thieves a Spring Break

(ARA) -- For many college students, Spring Break is a time to let loose and have fun. However, that doesn't mean you should take a break from being smart. Carelessness can have consequences that last way past the last volley ball game on the beach.

Americans will likely continue to curtail spending in 2009, but it’s unlikely crime will take a holiday in the first quarter of the year. It’s important to protect yourself, your property and your hard-earned cash from thieves -- especially identity thieves -- while you’re dealing with the economic downturn this year.

Law enforcement agencies across the country routinely report crime spikes during the hard economic times, and there’s no reason to think this year will be any different. Identity theft -- the unauthorized use of personal information like your name, Social Security or credit card numbers -- generated the most consumer complaints in 2007, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Victims spend an average of 300 hours repairing the damage wrought by ID thieves.

Here are a few ways to protect yourself from identity thieves throughout the year:

-- When shopping at the mall or other retail centers, never leave your purse, wallet or purchases in the car. If thieves break into your vehicle, they won’t just take your cash and merchandise, they may steal any identifying information you’ve left in the vehicle, like your license and registration, credit cards or even club membership cards.

-- Likewise, minimize the identifying information and financial cards you carry in your wallet. Carry only what’s required, and never carry your original Social Security card with you; memorize the number and keep the card in a safety deposit box instead.

-- Never leave your credit card with a store clerk to process a purchase while you run an errand nearby. In those few minutes, an unscrupulous clerk may take down your credit card information, and a careless one may leave your card where a thief can get his hands on it.

-- Don’t believe any merchant -- online or in person -- who requires you to reveal your Social Security or driver’s license numbers in order to make a credit card purchase. Showing your photo ID and your signature on the credit card should be sufficient for in-person purchases, and the security number for your card should suffice for online shopping. If a merchant insists on additional identifying information, consider taking your business elsewhere.

-- You may be tempted to clean out your car when you stop for gas, but never leave receipts, especially bank receipts, bill stubs or any other identifying paperwork in a public trash can. “Dumpster diving” -- pulling personal information from documents thrown in the trash -- remains a leading route for ID thieves.

-- When shopping online, stick with sites that have the closed lock icon at the bottom of your browser. It means you’re dealing with a site that practices security measures. Before you enter your credit card number for any online purchase, always make sure you’re dealing with a secure, trusted site that has a secure certificate.

-- Don’t wait until you get a phone call from a creditor you’ve never heard of before you find out about ID theft – enroll in a product like ProtectMyID.com, your single source for identity theft protection. The service offers a complete program for identity theft protection, detection, resolution and automatic coverage for credit and debt cards. If you do become a victim of ID theft while using the service, they’ll guarantee your losses up to $1 million. They check for important changes to your credit every day so you don't have to.

Smart safety and shopping practices, and the right protection tools, can help ensure your hard-earned dollars stay safe from identity thieves this year.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

© 2009 ARAcontent

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal or medical professional.