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Shopping for presents? 7 ways to avoid ID theft

  • Scott Mitic is the CEO of TrustedID
  • Holiday shopping can make you prone to identity theft
  • Check out his advice for keeping your personal information out of the hands of others
Shopping for presents? 7 ways to avoid ID theft
Scott Mitic

Editor’s note: Scott Mitic is the CEO of TrustedID, a security and reputation management firm that protects against credit and identity theft. He is on Twitter.

The holidays are synonymous with shopping. Whether you choose to shop online or the old-fashioned way in stores, any good consumer knows shopping transactions can put your identity -- and your mailbox -- at risk.

As you share personal information with retailers and charities, you increase the likelihood of having it distributed to other marketers looking to inundate you with junk mail or compromise your privacy or identity.

Here are some simple steps to protect yourself this holiday season:

Stop junk mail before it starts
Be wary of giving out personal information when it’s not necessary. This season, skip the sweepstakes sign-ups, in-store rewards cards, and product warrantees that don’t require a proof of purchase.

Check coupons
When receiving coupons or offers on social networks, go to the website and verify that those offers are current. Above all, keep in mind that you’re an easy target if you offer too much personal information when filling out forms to get a deal.

Be charitable… but anonymous
People receive an influx of mail from charitable organizations toward the end of the year. Make sure to either opt out of charity mailers or give anonymously through a site like Network for Good. They’ll get your donations into the right hands while keeping your personal information to themselves.

Read the fine print
It’ll take an extra minute, but look at company privacy policies before doing business with them. Often companies will disclose whether or not they plan to share your information with third parties.

Change your (middle) name
When doing business with a new company, use a fake middle initial that you can remember and associate with that company. As new unwanted marketing mail comes to your name with the fake initial, you’ll be able to determine which companies are sharing your name, address, and purchase data.

Delete unnecessary information online
Remove any personal information, such as your date of birth, email address, and employment information from your social networking profiles. I promise nobody will de-friend you for protecting your identity.

Stop the post-holiday rush
After the holidays are over, you might see a spike in the unwanted marketing mail that comes to your door including catalogs, credit card offers, or donation requests. De-list for free with Catalog Choice to remove your name and information from more than 8,000 marketing companies.

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