6. Identity thieves love travelers and tourists. Scott Stevenson, the founder and CEO of Eliminate ID Theft, an ID theft protection company, said that when traveling, you should be alert to strangers hovering when you use a credit card at an ATM or phone, and to avoid public wireless Internet connections unless you have beefed-up security protection.
7. Identity thieves are sneaky; you need to be sneaky, too. There are a few simple things you can do to protect your credit card in case it falls into the wrong hands. "Sign your credit card with a Sharpie so your signature can't be erased and written over," suggests Echo Montgomery Garrett, a writer in Marietta, Ga. Consultant Sarah Browne of Carmel, Calif., had all but one credit card stolen from a hotel room. The card that was spared still had the "please activate" sticker on it. Though Browne had activated the card, she forgot to remove the sticker. "The thieves must have known that you have to activate a new card from the phone number listed with the credit card company, so they didn't bother with it," she said. Since then, she leaves the activation stickers on all of her cards. Indeed, when a thief struck a second time at a public function, Browne's stickered cards were again left untouched.
8. Pay attention at the checkout line. If a cashier or salesperson takes your card and either turns away from you or takes too long to conduct what is usually a normal transaction, she may be scanning your card into a handheld skimming terminal to harvest the information. Thieves don't need a handheld scanner to capture your information. According to Mark Cravens, the "Anti-Scam Doctor" and author of "The Ten Commandments of Investing," they can take a picture of the front and back of your card with a cellphone or merely swap out cards. "Look at your card when they hand it back and make sure it's yours, and not another gold, silver, or blue card that looks like yours," he says. "You may not notice they swapped your card for days."
9. Go paperless in as many ways as possible. Sandy Shore, a training manager with Novadebt, a nonprofit, New Jersey-based credit-counseling agency, suggests clients cut back on the mail they receive from banks and financial institutions by discontinuing paper bills and statements. "Access your financial statements at the issuer's website instead," she says. This strategy has the added bonus of an environmental benefit. Similarly, Vaclav Vincalek, the president of Pacific Coast Information Systems, an IT security firm, recommends that whatever paper receipts and financial statements you do receive go through the shredder instead of into the wastebasket. "Never throw away a credit card slip," he says. "Instead, shred anything that has any number, name, address on it."
10. Identity theft insurance can pay off, but you need to read the fine print. Several companies offer identity theft insurance, which covers the money you shell out to repair your identity. This includes whatever you spend on phone calls, making copies of documents and mailing them, hiring an attorney and, in some cases, lost wages. However, the insurance -- which costs about $50 a year -- does not reimburse you for funds you lost. Your current homeowners policy may include identity theft insurance in your package, so check first before signing up with an outside company. Also, some companies are starting to offer identity theft insurance as an employee benefit.
This article was reported by Lisa Rogak for CreditCards.com.
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