Avoiding identity theft: Ways to keep personal info private

By Matt Butner - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" are just around the corner. These are big days not just for holiday shoppers, but for criminals as well. Identity thieves will be looking to fulfill their wish lists-- at your expense. And they don't need to use high-tech methods to get what they want.

Identity theft can be a sophisticated, high-tech crime, but according to the metro Richmond identity theft task force, it more often starts out with a simple act.

"Our crimes may start off with someone leaving their wallet in the car, someone breaking the window and taking that credit card - then they'll take it and open up additional accounts," said Michael Romano, Metro Richmond Identity Task Force.

Crimes like that are common around the holidays, with bigger crowds at malls and stores. All the more reason to keep a close eye, and a firm grip, on purses and wallets. Don't leave anything valuable in plain sight or unattended.

The high-tech dangers are still out there, too. When shopping online, always make sure you're dealing with a reputable site before giving up your account information.

"Major retailers usually have a www, dot, their actual name. You should never deal with a retailer that has a www, then something generic, like a yahoo address, and then a backslash name," Romano said.

And watch out for so-called "friends" on social networking sites sending you deals.

"If you see something and it takes you to a link where a friend would not typically send you something like that, don't open it. If it looks too good to be true, it definitely is," he said.

Finally, check your credit card and bank accounts frequently. You don't want to start the New Year trying to clean up your credit. For more on identity theft, including what to do if it happens to you click here.

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