Avoid the ‘Grinch’ of identity theft during holidays

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

In the holiday classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the grouchy protagonist steals all the gifts, decorations and food from the unsuspecting residents of Whoville. It’s a brazen theft and one that leaves residents with nothing, or so it would seem.

But through a lesson in the true spirit of Christmas, and a redeeming change of heart, the Grinch returns the presents and the decorations. It is the classic happy ending.

Sadly, the Christmas season brings concerns about some real-life Grinch moments as incidents of identity theft increase at this time of year.

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Authorities warn that residents who use debit or credit cards – and we all know they are well used, both in person and online – during the holidays, should take extra precautions to protect their accounts. Here’s some tips from the Troy Police:

• If you write checks, use only the necessary information, name, address, phone number. Never give your social security number.

• Safeguard your credit cards and checks as you do cash. Do not leave them in jacket pockets or sitting out in restaurants.

• Keep your purse or wallet on you. Shoulder straps should cross your body, not dangling from your shoulder. Do not lay them in a shopping basket. Be sure they are closed securely.

• Make a list of all your credit cards, debit cards and checks with account numbers. Keep the list in a secure place at home.

• Notify issuers immediately if your card is lost, stolen or misused.

• Take your time when making a purchase. Be sure you collect your license, credit card, or check book and your receipt.

• Keep your receipts and reconcile your statement. Promptly report any discrepancies to the issuer.

• Consider Direct Deposit of your payroll or benefit checks; it’s safe and convenient and prevents the theft of your checks.

• Check your accounts as frequently as possible to watch for unauthorized activity.

And, most important, remember that real-life Grinches have a multitude of avenues for compromising your identity, so make protecting it a priority.