Beware of Identity Theft This Holiday Season

imagesCAJTR62XBy Yessica Casias

Holiday shopping is in full gear and identity theft is happening. Students should be aware of the threats and use precautions to protect personal data.

According to the United States Department of Justice identity theft or identity fraud are crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s private data in some way that involves fraud or deception typically for economic gain.

Many students are at risk for identity theft as they shop this season.

Jennifer Artiga, College of Southern Nevada student, says, “I enjoy [shopping online] because it’s better than going to the mall. It’s faster.”

When asked whether she is afraid of identity theft, Artiga says, “I don’t really care because I don’t have millions of dollars. They would only be taking like $20.”

Although Artiga is not concerned about having her personal information stolen, many are concerned.

Approximately 7 percent of people aged 16 or older were victims of identity theft in 2012, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, with 85 percent of those cases involving use of existing account information such as credit card or bank accounts. About 14 percent of identity-theft victims experienced out-of-pocket losses of $1 or more, with nearly half with losses of less than $100. Among victims who had personal information used for fraudulent purposes, 29 percent spent a month or more resolving those problems.

Laura Cruz, CSN student, likes to take precautions when shopping online to protect her identity.

“If a website doesn’t have an About Us page, FAQ, store policies and an actual physical store somewhere, I don’t feel safe,” Cruz says.

“I’m really choosy about where I do my online shopping,” Cruz says. “I always do research on a website before I shop. I always get the address and Google map it to make sure it actually exists. I also call the phone number to make sure it’s real. I try to find as many customer reviews as I can. If they’re mainly positive then I’ll finally shop there. Even with Amazon and eBay, if a seller has negative reviews I won’t bother buying from them.”

According to the government’s website USA.gov there are tips for preventing identity theft including the following: don’t carry social-security card or other important information while shopping, protect PIN from shoulder surfers—those watching the keypad when people are completing their transactions, collect mail promptly, pay attention to billing cycles, keep receipts, shred mail when finished with it, store personal information in safe places, install firewalls on computers and check credit report yearly.

Anakaren Trinidad Pulido, CSN student, says, “I found out through my bank that adding a chip to my credit card can help with identify theft if someone were to try to use my card overseas.” That is one idea that might be worth pursuing.

If someone experiences identity theft, report it to the financial institution or bank where the cards are linked, report the fraud to local police immediately and contact credit-reporting bureaus, according to USA.gov.

For more tips see the United States Department of Justice website http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html.

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