The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends, but its also prime time for identity thieves.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends, but it’s also prime time for identity thieves.
By stealing Social Security or credit card numbers, criminals can rack up fraudulent bank and charge accounts, or even borrow money. Victims are often unaware of the crime until they are denied credit or saddled with bad debt and the road to a clear credit record can be a long one.
In the past few years, the Michigan Senate has taken the lead to protect consumers and provide law enforcement with better tools to track down and prosecute identity thieves. This spring, I co-sponsored a new round of legislation that cracks down on a type of Internet fraud called “phishing.” Senate Bills 149 and 150 are currently awaiting action in the Michigan House of Representatives.
Phishing scams use e-mails or pop-up ads to lead consumers to official-looking Web sites designed to trick them into disclosing information such as credit card or Social Security numbers. Most online identity theft occurs during the holidays, so take extra care when shopping online in the busy weeks ahead.
Here are a few tips to help ensure identity thieves don’t steal your holiday cheer:
- Don’t reply to pop-up or e-mail messages asking for financial information;
- Don’t e-mail personal information, such as your Social Security number;
- Shop with reputable stores and use a secure browser;
- Make sure your anti-spy software is up-to-date; and
- Check your credit card and bank statements as soon as you get them.
Also, get an annual copy of your credit report and make sure only the accounts you opened are listed.
As a final thought, I’d like to put in a plug for shopping locally, especially this holiday season. Let’s keep some of our hard earned dollars right here in Michigan. Here’s to a safe and happy holiday season!
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