NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s Identity Crimes Unit urges all citizens to protect themselves against identity crimes, including theft and fraud, this holiday season.
“Millions of shoppers will take advantage of ‘Black Friday’ or ‘Cyber Monday’ holiday sales this year. We just want to encourage consumers to take extra precautions to prevent fraudulent use of their personal information,” Tennessee Highway Patrol Major Stacy Williams said. He oversees the department’s Identity Crimes Unit.
According to Javelin Strategy and Research, 13.1 million consumers suffered identity fraud in 2013. That’s an increase of 500,000 from the previous year and marks the second highest level on record. It was also revealed that 44 percent of all fraud involved an online transaction.
“Internet scammers or hackers can easily access your private data, if you’re not careful. Citizens should make sure web sites are secure before entering any personal or financial information,” Williams stated.
In 2013, identity theft accounted for 14 percent of all complaints recorded by the Federal Trade Commission, leading the list of top consumer complaints.
The Identity Crimes Unit offers these tips to help keep holiday shoppers safe from identity theft and fraud:
When paying by credit card:
- Don’t allow clerks to put your receipts in your bag; carry them in your wallet instead where they are safer and less likely to fall out.
- Watch cashiers, waiters and bartenders, ensuring that they don’t “skim” or save your card number for later use.
- When paying by check:
- Never allow merchants to write your social security number on the check. In many states, it is illegal.
- Use a gel ink pen—preferably black—to write checks, which will permeate the fibers and make it difficult for the check to be cleaned and reused.
When shopping online:
- Be careful of wireless internet connections. Only use those that require a security key or certificate.
- Shop on secure, reputable sites only – https:// at the beginning of the URL indicates a secure site.
- Never offer personal information, especially your social security number.
- Leave suspicious websites immediately.
- Read customer reviews before ordering.
- Use a credit card and not a debit card, this protects your personal funds and prevents thieves from gaining access to funds in your bank account.
- Avoid carrying a social security card, birth certificate, passport, bank information or paychecks when hitting the stores.
- Check your bank statements, credit card bills and credit reports often. This will help to avoid any efforts to use your identity.
If you have been the victim of identity theft or other identity crime, you can get information and help by downloading a resource kit for identity theft victims from http://www.tn.gov/safety/ICU.shtml.
The Department of Safety and Homeland Security Identity Crimes Unit is comprised of employees from three divisions of the department: Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security, and Driver Services Division.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to serve, secure, and protect the people of Tennessee.