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This holiday season, protecting your identity is as important as ever.

While businesses rush to meet their sales quota for the year and family members become preoccupied with finding “the perfect present,” thieves are busy using the holiday distraction to their advantage in stealing your identity.

To help protect yourself or your business, we have put together a list of reminders so you don’t fall victim to holiday identity theft this year.

Don’t throw away junk mail without examining it first.

During the holidays, business owners and homeowners alike will receive pre-paid credit card offers in the mail. These can easily be filled by someone other than you, resulting in your identity being stolen and your good credit ruined. While you may be in the habit of simply throwing this unwanted mail away, this increases your risk, especially around the holidays, and should be shredded instead.

Skip the store credit card applications

While you may be tempted to apply for a store credit card to save money, think about what happens beyond receiving 5% off your purchase. When filling out the application, you are required to provide specific information, such as your date of birth, home address, even your social security number! If the store hasn’t enrolled in secure document destruction services, what happens to your application once it’s approved (or not approved)? Is it thrown away? Is it kept in a file somewhere? These are questions you will want to ask if you open a credit card, otherwise it may be beneficial to skip it altogether.

Monitor your bank account, credit and debit cards, and loan statements.

Have you purchased gifts this holiday season, but the bill didn’t come? Are there charges to your account that you can’t recall making? Despite how busy you may be this season, take the time to review and monitor your account on a regular basis. If you receive updates, make sure this information is properly shredded. We also recommend setting up a text alert system so you will be immediately notified of any suspicious activity on your accounts.

Never use an unsecure WIFI network when shopping online.

Using an Internet connection that is open to the public puts you at risk of having your information stolen. Since you don’t know who else is using the WIFI, you also don’t know who may have access to your account information when you make a purchase. If you engage in online shopping, make sure you are using your own secure Internet network.

Pay attention to your surroundings.

No, we aren’t referring to the festive decorations hung up in the store! When making a purchase with a credit or debit card, shield the card reader from those around you. Doing so will restrict anyone from seeing your pin number.

Be wary of skimming.

Skimming is the act of stealing personal information by running cards through a device known as a skimmer. This is performed by the person handling your card (cashier, waiter, etc.) once you have made a purchase. The person scans your card through the credit card machine, and then scans it again through a skimmer, held out of site. Skimmers capture personal information, instantly enabling your identity to be stolen. To protect yourself, make sure you can see your credit card at all times or use cash whenever possible.

Shred unneeded bills, receipts, statements, etc.

Documents that include credit card numbers, ATM numbers, social security numbers, etc. should never be thrown into the trash or recycling bin. Ripping the documents or using a personal shredder is simply not enough to secure your identity correctly. If you are interested in Shred Instead’s scheduled route or one-time shredding services, we will safely destroy personal information so you can fully enjoy the holidays. Contact us today for more information and give yourself the gift of identity protection this year.