As the final days for holiday shopping have arrived, AAA Texas reminds people to take steps to protect themselves from thieves while shopping and while away from home.
Protect Your Identity
With credit and debit cards being swiped at the fastest rates of the year, there are multiple opportunities for thieves to steal your identity when shopping online and in stores. To prevent theft of your credit card or other personal information over the holidays, AAA Texas recommends:
- Stick to familiar websites that you know are secure. Don’t use a new website to buy something before checking consumer reviews, and make sure the site offers a secure web page for credit card transactions.
- Don’t shop online or provide personal data when using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection in a public place or on a public computer. Hackers may be able to steal your information.
- When shopping at retail locations, don’t let your credit card out of sight when paying for purchases. Make sure your purse or wallet is always secure.
- Keep your smartphone in a safe place when shopping or while out, and use a passcode lock feature, if it has one. Thieves can access your personal data by stealing an unsecured cell phone.
- Services like ProtectMyID Essential (free to AAA Texas members), ProtectMyID Deluxe and ProtectMyID Platinum – which monitor users’ credit activities and assist in resolving fraudulent charges – are critical to consumers as ID theft crime continues to grow.
Protect Your Home
In addition to the possibility of ID theft, vacationers can be at increased risk of a home burglary during the holiday season. AAA Texas suggests these tips before leaving your home:
- Close and lock all house and garage windows and doors. Slide locks are recommended for sliding glass doors.
- Leave blinds and curtains in their normal position so your house doesn’t appear empty. If possible, move expensive electronic equipment such as TVs or computers away from windows where they will be in plain sight.
- Don’t post about when you will leave for vacation and/or where you will be going on social media, regardless of how excited you are.
- Ask a trusted neighbor to pick up your mail or have the Post Office hold it. Remember to suspend your newspaper subscription while you are away too.
- Ask a friend to inspect your house regularly and ask them to turn the outdoor lights on at night or put your lights on a timer. The person watching your house should have a key to your car in case it needs to be moved during an emergency. Also, let them know who may be visiting your home while you are away such as yard maintenance workers.
- Keep your valuables locked in a safe.
- Never leave spare keys hidden under doormats, flowerpots or anywhere outside the house.
- Make sure your home owner insurance policy coverage is up-to-date by speaking with your agent to ensure you have the proper amount of contents coverage to protect your belongings. Ensure your premiums are paid and that your policy is current.
- Don’t add personal information on your luggage tags. A thief may see the address and assume that no one is home. Use luggage tag covers, a business address or simply use your phone number.
Protect Your Vehicle
Texas ranked second in the country for the most motor vehicle thefts last year, according to data collected by the Insurance Information Institute. Although the number of auto thefts has declined in recent years, car theft remains a common crime. Keep the following in mind when looking at your auto insurance coverage:
- Auto theft is covered under the comprehensive section of an auto insurance policy. Theft coverage applies to the loss of the vehicle as well as parts of the car, such as air bags.
- Comprehensive coverage, which is not mandatory, also pays for fire, vandalism, and weather-related damage, including damage from flooding and earthquakes.
- Rates for comprehensive insurance are affected by the risk of loss, meaning the likelihood that an insured car will be stolen or damaged, and also the car’s value at the time of the loss.
AAA Texas offers the following tips to prevent vehicle burglary and theft:
- Always lock your vehicle with the windows closed. Even if you park your vehicle in a garage, this simple measure is added security.
- Never leave belongings including shopping bags out in the open in your car as they could tempt thieves.
- Never leave your keys in your vehicle or leave your vehicle running any time you are not in it.
- Keep your vehicle in secure, well-lit areas. When possible, park in a locked garage. Also, consider installing a motion-activated floodlight that illuminates the place where your car is parked.
- Use anti-theft or automatic tracking devices. If your vehicle wasn’t equipped with an alarm or hidden tracking device when purchased, have one installed.
- Remove spare keys from vehicle. Never hide a spare ignition key in your vehicle. Remove keys from under floor mats, etc.
ProtectMyID, part of Experian, is a leading full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and fraud resolution. It offers comprehensive identity theft protection products supported by experienced identity theft resolution professionals who deliver personal attention that customers can rely on. For more information, visit aaa.com/experianidtheft/. AAA Texas branch offices throughout the state can be found by visiting www.AAA.com. Follow AAA Texas on Twitter: @AAATexas and Facebook: www.facebook.com/AAATexas.