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Identity theft on rise at holidays (and how to stay protected)

Premier Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorneys Offer Advice to Protect Yourself From Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft This Holiday Season

Identity theft is a serious criminal offense victimizing almost 7 percent of the population each year

According to the federal government, the crime of identity theft was responsible for $5 billion in losses to victims in 2014, the last year for which information was reported. The average loss per victim was about $500. Identity theft is the leading consumer complaint according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Keeping yourself and your identity secure becomes even more difficult during the holiday season as identity thieves seek to take advantage of an increase in online purchases, an upswing in public Wi-Fi and the increased use of credit and debit cards at stores and other locations. People who are in a hurry while shopping or distracted by crowded stores may not be as careful as they might be at other times of the year.

With more than 17 million people falling victim to identity theft each year, here are a few things you can do to better protect yourself this holiday season:

  • Shop only on secure websites: If the website on which you are shopping has “https” at the beginning of its address, this is an indication that it is a secure website. While it may not protect you completely from identity theft, it is a better choice than using your credit card or an unsecure website.

  • Understand the risks of public Wi-Fi: Using the free Wi-Fi to speed up your smartphone, laptop or tablet might seem like a good idea, but hackers can easily access your device to collect personal information. Public Wi-Fi is a terrible way to transmit banking or credit card information because of the lack of security.

  • Protect your credit and debit cards: Technology has proven to be a boon to identity thieves who can now use radio frequency scanners to grab your credit card number even when it is in your wallet or pocketbook. Fortunately, another piece of technology known as a RFID wallet blocking card can be placed in your credit card holder to prevent thieves from using scanners and getting your information.

  • Be alert for email scams: If an email from officials at your bank warning you about a breach of security affecting your accounts asks you to provide your user name and password to assist them in their investigation, don’t give it. It may look like it came from your bank, but a look at the address of the sender will reveal that it did not come from your bank. It is a scam to get your log on information.

  • Telephone calls to avoid: The call from someone claiming to be from a nationally known computer software company with an offer to repair a problem that threatens to destroy your company might seem legitimate, but the caller will eventually get around to asking you for sensitive information that could allow the caller to get access to your credit card information or bank records. Unless you can verify the identity of a caller, do not share personal or financial information over the telephone.

Identity theft is a serious problem throughout the year, but holiday time seems to be when people become even more vulnerable to being victimized. Law enforcement agencies increase their efforts to investigate and prosecute identity theft crimes at this time of the year. If you are under investigation by police, the tough and respected criminal defense attorneys at the Philadelphia Law Offices of Michael T. van der Veen are proven and dedicated advocates for the rights of their clients. Contact them today to arrange for a free initial consultation by calling (215) 515-6892 or by contacting them through their website.

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