Almost 20 billion packages will be delivered through the mail this holiday season. Even at $5 per package, that’s more than $100 Billion in value going through the mail–a scale too large and tempting for criminals to ignore.
Why do thieves target us during the holidays? In addition to the volume and value of holiday mail, criminals are taking advantage of the perfect winter storm:
Trucks are overloaded, mail & UPS carriers are overworked and shoppers are overwhelmed, which makes theft easy and attractive
Thieves take advantage not just of our good nature during the holidays, but of how distracted we are
Criminals see our generosity of giving as a goldmine waiting to be exploited
So I’m out to dinner with a professional speaker whose name I’ll drop so that you’ll be impressed. Larry Winget. Larry is the Pitbull of Personal Development and he’ll probably kill me for not putting a trademark after that title, because he owns it. If you have somebody in your life (kid, employee, boss) that doesn’t take responsibility for the life they lead and the work they’re supposed to do, Larry’s your man. Google his name and find out, or go to LarryWinget.com.
But back to my story. I treated Larry to dinner in Phoenix because I owe him a thousand meals for the coaching he gives me and we’re leaving the table when his wife (who is much nicer than Larry) asks if I’ve taken my credit card out of the folder. Nope. God I hate when that happens! Small oversight for someone who lives and breathes security and privacy. I left my card in the folder, on the table and was fully prepared to leave the restaurant!
Fraud Expert John Sileo discusses why your child is 51X more likely to become a victim of ID Theft on Fox Business.
Why are our kids, the very people we most want to protect, so vulnerable to identity theft? Because they have unused, unblemished credit profiles. According to Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab, 10.2% of the children in a recent report had someone else using their Social Security numbers. That figure is 51 times higher than the rate for adults of the same population.
Thieves steal a child’s identity early on, nurture it until they have a solid credit score, and then abuse and discard it. If it’s not discovered in time, fraudulent use of your child’s identity could mean the loss of educational and job opportunities and starting off adulthood at a serious disadvantage with someone else’s bad credit in her name.
Holiday travel brings various levels of challenge and stress. Don’t let identity theft risk add to your anxiety.
Here are five tips to help you to avoid becoming a victim while on vacation:
1. Stop your mail and newspaper. Avoid letting un-invited credit invitations sit in your mail box. You can stop your mail by phone or online at usps.com. Also, ask a trusted neighbor to watch for package & parcel deliveries and to hang on to them until you return. If you receive a daily newspaper, put your subscription on hold. A pile of un-retrieved newspapers in your driveway is a “Welcome” sign to thieves.
2. Don’t advertise that you’re on vacation. Make sure if you are going to post vacation updates on your e-mail, on social networking websites, or on your voice mail greeting, that you post generically, no specifics. Put a few lights on timers so that your home doesn’t look unoccupied for the entire time you’re gone. Replace the front porch light bulb.
Freezing your credit is the number one way to protect against financial identity theft. If everyone in the country applied for a Credit Freeze, identity thieves would quickly be out of business. At least, a major part of their business. Take 30 minutes and lower your chances of identity theft drastically (see the online Freeze links at the bottom of this post).
To go directly to placing a security freeze on your 3 bureau accounts, page down to the bottom section.
Every time you establish new credit (e.g., open up a new credit card, store account or bank account, finance a car or home loan, etc.), an entry is created in your credit file which is maintained by companies like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (listed below). The trouble is, with your name, address and social security number, an identity thief can pretend to be you and can establish credit (i.e., spend your net worth) in your name.
The IRS admittedly has little control over protecting your tax returns against identity theft. The problem is too big, the data too widely available, prevention too rarely attended to until it’s already too late. Your tax returns are the Holy Grail of identity theft because they contain virtually every piece of information a fraudster needs to BECOME you. But you don’t have to be a victim; you simply need to take responsibility for what is rightfully yours – your tax return information and your identity. The changes aren’t difficult, they simply require you read through this document so that you recognize the risks. Once that’s done, you simply avoid the highest-risk behaviors.
Here is a comprehensive list of frauds, scams and high risk tax-time practices.
It’s nerve racking to realize that the IRS increasingly struggles to control taxpayer identity theft. Since 2008, the IRS has identified 470,000 incidents of identity theft affecting more than 390,000 taxpayers. “Victims of tax-related identity theft are the casualties of a system ill-equipped to deal with the growing proficiency and sophistication of today’s tax scam artists” said Sen. Bill Nelson, who chairs the newly formed Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth.
Let’s say you ordered winter boots for your spouse on Zappos.com (now part of Amazon), which has world-class customer service. You don’t really even shop the competition because someplace in your brain you already trust Zappos to deliver as they always have. Your unquestioned confidence in Zappos is worth a fortune.
And then hackers break in to a server in Kentucky this past weekend and steal private information on 24 million Zappos customers, including (if you are a customer) your name, email address, physical address, phone number, the last four digits of your credit card number and an encrypted version (thank goodness) of your password. Consequently, your junk email folder is overflowing (your email has been illicitly sold to marketing companies), you receive the doom-and-gloom breach notification from Zappos (just like I did), and suddenly, you don’t have quite the same confidence in this best-in-practice business any more. Your shaken confidence in Zappos costs them a fortune. For the foreseeable future, you will pause before using their website again.
If you received an iPad for the holidays (or already have one), you own the most powerful productivity tool invented in the last 20 years – it’s like command central for your life and work. I use the iPad as a step-by-step, centralized way to keep tabs on everything related to my business. Over a cup of coffee, I consume highly-relevant information (no Angry Birds at this point in the day) in a low-stress way simply by clicking through my iPad apps in a consciously prioritized order. I’m not actually taking action on anything at this point, just getting an overview of the appointments, current events, and communications that will make me more effective. That way, when I get down to work, I know exactly what should get my attention. The routine is always the same, so I never have to remember what I need to do except to open my iPad before I officially start the day. The process takes me about 20 minutes, and by the time I get to work, my brain has sorted most of the information and knows where to start. Here’s how I consciously prioritize my apps (see screen shot):