Experts offer tips to protect your identity during the holiday season

Experts offer tips to protect your identity during the holiday season. (WGXA-TV)

MACON, Ga. -- Financial crimes, including identity theft, tend to tick up during the holiday season when many people are shopping online.

Although these types of crimes are typically perpetrated by a seemingly nameless and faceless suspect, experts say there are ways to protect yourself.

John Slocumb, a tech expert at Quality Computer Systems in Macon, said there are many ways to make sure your identity is safe when shopping online.

First, he recommends changing your passwords for all of your platforms every 30 to 60 days. This way, it will be harder for criminals to take your information.

Secondly, when you create a new password, he said it is important to make sure it is strong, meaning mixing upper and lower case letters with numbers and symbols. He also said you shouldn't use things like your birthday or Social Security Number as your password because this makes it even easier for a thief to steal your identity.

Oftentimes when you shop online, websites will ask you if you want to save your credit card information so that you can streamline your future purchases. Slocumb said he does not recommend doing this because if that website is hacked, your information could easily be stolen.

Another tip Slocumb offered is to ensure that you are not making online purchases or accessing your bank account while using a public WiFi connection. He said these types of connections are not secure and can lead to anyone on the network accessing your information.

He also said it is important to make sure your antivirus software is up to date.

Brian Powell, an investigator in the financial crimes unit with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office, said that especially during the holiday season, many people end up getting their credit card information stolen and the thieves will then make big-ticket purchases with that information.

He said it is also common for thieves to steal a physical credit card, so he said it is important to make sure you keep your card in a safe spot. He said you shouldn't store your card in your vehicle and said it is never wise to write down your PIN number anywhere.

Another important tip that Powell offered is that when you receive a pre-approved credit card the mail, rather than simply throwing it out, take the time to open it and call the number to opt out of the card. He said if you just trash it, someone could take it and activate it in your name, which could affect your finances as well as your credit.

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