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Be Alert Using Personal Information During Holidays

Be Alert Using Personal Information This Month, Cautions Identity Theft Assistance Center

Holiday Shopping, New Phishing Schemes, Ongoing Katrina Aftermath Make Consumers More Vulnerable

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Several factors have combined to make consumers especially vulnerable to identity thieves during the month of December, according to the Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC).

"Identity thieves don't take a holiday," said Anne Wallace, executive director of ITAC. "Consumers should be especially careful in the coming weeks about sharing their personal information, especially their social security numbers, whether it's a request from an individual or comes unsolicited through the internet," she adds.

Identity thieves use consumers' personal information to open financial accounts in their name. Wallace cites several factors that point to an especially bad month for consumers:

* Tax refund scheme. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has warned
consumers about a bogus email offering tax refunds. The emails, which
purport to be from [email protected], direct consumers to a website
where they are asked for their social security number and credit card
number to receive a refund.

* Holiday Shopping. Retailers often use the holidays to entice
consumers into opening store credit accounts. Wallace explains
consumers can decrease their chances of becoming victims of identity
theft by limiting the number of credit accounts, which generally
require a social security number. The holidays are also a good time
to cancel credit accounts that have not been used over the past 12

* Hurricane aftermath. Authorities continue to report arrests related
to identity theft in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Criminals attempt to trick survivors into revealing personal
information, or may use information from abandoned personal documents
or intercepted mail to open accounts.

Posted on December 3, 2005 at 03:35 PM | Permalink


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