Just as important as taking down the decorations, throwing out all the debris from opened gifts and getting the house back in order after the holiday activities, is that of scrutinizing your credit card statements.

2CWhy? To make sure that all the purchases on there were made by you and only you. The holiday season means more credit card use = more identity theft. In this case, it’s “account takeover.”

The crook gets your credit (or debit) card information in one of several ways: digging through trash to get credit card information; tampering with ATMs; hacking; and perhaps the thief is the person you gave the card to to pay for your restaurant meal.

Yet another way the thief could get you is to obtain a new credit card line—using your name, address and Social Security number. He maxes out his new card and doesn’t pay the bill. One day you get a call from a collection agency, along with knowledge that your credit has been ruined. This is called “new account fraud”

Account takeover can be discovered via unauthorized charges on your statements, or the thief’s spending habits may alert the company (via its anomaly detection software) to something suspicious, such as a lot of spending halfway across the globe one hour after you purchased something in your home town.

You have 60 days to report suspicious activity to save yourself from paying the unpaid bills. The zero liability policy protects you. The most you’ll pay out is $50. But if you delay reporting the fraudulent activity, you’re screwed.

Thus, you must make time to just sit down and look over every charge on your statements, even if this means that the only time you have to do it is when you’re on the toilet. But you DO have time. You have time to read someone’s drivel on Facebook or something about Duchess Kate’s hair…you certainly have time to read your card statements every month.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

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