Zachary Friesen, a Denver-based identity theft expert and educator, spends a great deal of energy ensuring consumers aren't Scrooged come the holiday season. He travels the country speaking to schools and state governments behind a nonprofit program that aims to nip schemers in the bud. Here, he offers tips to ensure your Black Friday and Cyber Monday don't fall subject to Christmas crooks.
What about the holidays makes honest people particularly vulnerable?
ZF: Identity theft is the number one crime in America. During the holidays specifically, you're going to be making a lot more purchases, a lot more transactions on credit cards. ID theft is a smart crime. (With online shopping) people are going to try to figure out what will motivate you to give out your personal info.
Thieves are more innovative than they used to be. What are the latest trends in ID thievery?
ZF: It's ever-evolving. It's unfortunate that we end up seeing it after it's been happening for a while. Last year we saw a lot of scanners and skimmers (data recording devices) put on ATMs and gas pumps.
Does holiday travel put people in any particular risk?
ZF: The biggest thing for travel is that it makes it difficult to justify purchases. It's one thing to go down to the store you're familiar with and make a purchase, it's another thing to go to another state, where they might have different regulations on hiring temporary employment. If you are a victim of identify theft (outside your home state), it can be a real hassle and headache to track all the purchase you make.
What can consumers do to protect themselves?
ZF: The big rule for consumers ... you just need to be aware of who you're handing that credit card to. In line it can be a little frustrating. If you see them swipe it on one screen and then another, feel free to question them. If they refuse, ask for a manager.
Have a good grasp on what credit is yours, what isn't. In general, you have 30 days to catch (illegitimate purchases), and you're not liable. In 60 days, a percent of liability falls on you. After that 90 days, that's where you see people who are trying to prove it wasn't them. But they've missed that window of opportunity.
Learn more about Friesen and his sponsor, Lifelock Identity Theft Protection, at www.lifelock.com.