Protect your identity this holiday season

November 24, 2010 2:54:07 PM PST
As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, it is critical you take steps to protect your personal and financial information.

When you hit the stores, only carry the credit cards and other items you absolutely need and never carry PINs or passwords in your wallet.

"Certainly don't bring your social security card because you don't want other people to get that number," said Greg Daugherty of Consumer Reports.

Also, after giving your card to somebody at a store or restaurant, keep an eye out for suspicious activity. Make sure they don't run your card twice or write down any of the information.

Be sure to shred all unwanted credit card and other financial junk mail before throwing it away.

You should also avoid giving personal information over the phone or by email to anyone, even if that person claims to work for the government, your bank, or a debt collection agency.

"In particular, deal with merchants you know and trust, particularly online," Daugherty said.

If you come across a merchant you've never heard of before, do an internet search of the name plus the words "ripoff" or "scam" and see if anything comes up.

Another tip: When looking at a website address, see if it starts with https. That "s" means it's a secure site, Consumer Reports said.

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More information:

Consumer Reports: Ways to Stay Safe Online
McAfee's "Twelve Scams of Christmas 2010"
Identity theft prevention from the Justice Department


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