While many people enjoy celebrating the holiday season with their loved ones, there are also those lurking in the dark, looking for ways to capitalize on the season of giving. This is a time of year when it is especially wise to guard against thieves who are eager to steal gifts, money and financial and credit card information. By taking some proactive measures, you can help protect yourself so you can enjoy the holidays while keeping away any grinches.
Shopping in public
Crowded shopping areas are prime target areas for thieves. When venturing out to your local mall, we encourage you to consider the following tips:
- Put receipts in your wallet or purse. Keeping them with purchases makes it easier for thieves to return stolen items and collect the cash.
- Always park in a well-lit area and keep any valuables hidden out of sight to reduce the risk of having your vehicle broken into. Avoid dropping off items in your vehicle and then returning to the mall to continue shopping, as thieves monitor these types of actions.
- Consider taking a photo on your phone of where you parked, so that when you are finished shopping, you know exactly where your vehicle is and have a direct route. Wandering around a parking lot while carrying valuables can make you a target for thieves.
- If you are buying or selling goods through online ad services, consider making these exchanges in populated public places to increase your safety.
Credit card theft is the highest reported type of identity theft and most of the time it takes place without the thieves ever touching your card. Skimming is a process where your credit or debit card number is stolen through a device attached to a legitimate payment processor. The skimmer secretly records the card data as you insert your card into the real scanner.
Your identity may also be stolen online through “phishing,” which occurs when someone sends you a pop-up or spam message claiming to be an institution asking for your personal information.
To fight against identity theft, we recommend the following:
- Never respond to an email, online message or phone call that asks for your personal information, even if it appears to be from a trusted institution. Contact your institution directly to confirm if the request is legitimate.
- Before disclosing personal information, ensure you know how your information will be used, why it is needed, who will be sharing it and how it will be safeguarded. Do not be afraid to refuse to give information until you have confirmed it will be stored safely.
- Pay attention to your billing cycle. If your credit card or utility bills do not arrive on time, contact the companies to ensure your mail has not been redirected. Access your credit report from an authorized reporting agency once a year to ensure it is accurate and does not include unauthorized activities.
- Notify creditors immediately if you suspect suspicious activities on your credit card account.
- Implement passwords on personal files and update them regularly. Choose difficult passwords – not your pet or mother’s maiden name. Memorize and change them often. Do not write them down and leave them in your wallet, or some equally obvious place.
- Be careful what you throw out in the garbage. Shred personal financial information such as statements, credit card offers, receipts and insurance forms you no longer require.
Protect your home
How can you protect your home against invasions? Even if you lock your doors and windows, intruders may still be able to break in. A monitored home security system might be the solution that will give you the peace of mind you are looking for.
A monitored home security system will set off a loud noise when activated by an intruder and notify you, the alarm company and the police.
Here are a few other benefits that monitored home security systems offer:
- Some security systems include home security cameras that can send a feed to your smart phone. Do you have an infant? Your monitored security system can double as a baby monitor.
- You and your family members may be able to enjoy the benefits of keyless entry. This is when you simply punch in a security code to enter your home. This comes in handy if you have kids who arrive home from school while you are still at work. In the event of a lost or stolen key, you will not have to worry about your keys landing in the hands of strangers.
- Your monitored home security system can connect with your smart phone, making managing your home security simple and convenient.
It is important to ensure that the monitored alarm system you select is Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) certified.
Keeping grinches away and insurance considerations
Even after taking all foreseen precautions against identity theft, you can never be completely sure what may happen. If you fall victim to identity theft, having identity theft insurance can help protect you. This type of coverage can be added to your existing home insurance policy. Premiums start from as low as $35.00 per year and can be discounted further if it’s bundled with property insurance.
Coverage pays the fees associated with ordering new identification, reapplying to loans if rejected due to incorrect information, and covering your lost income from missing work. Depending on the carrier, identity theft insurance can also include a 24/7 identity theft assistance line and legal assistance for victims of identity theft.
If you have a monitored home insurance system, you may qualify for home insurance discounts. Speak to a BrokerLink broker for more information about how your security system can affect your home insurance policy.
Contact a BrokerLink branch today for additional insurance-related information to ensure your possessions are properly covered. Doing so will help you keep grinches far away, so you can focus on enjoying the holidays.