2006-12-14 / News

Protect yourself from identity theft this holiday season

With the holiday shopping season now in full swing, Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch is urging Rhode Island consumers to take precautionary measures to protect themselves from becoming victims of scam artists or identity thieves.

“Although predators are always at work to take your identity, your credit, or your cash, this type of activity is more prevalent, unfortunately, during the holidays,” Lynch said. “There are steps consumers can take to reduce the risk of being robbed of the joy and goodwill of the season.”

Lynch said consumers should be especially wary of solicitations taking place at the door or over the phone, stating that the consumer should always ask for the charity’s full name and address and get full identification from the person requesting the donation. “Appeals should identify the charity and describe its mission and programs,” Lynch said. “If you do write a check, make sure it’s payable to the charitable organization, and not to an individual.”

Lynch also advised consumers to watch out for unsolicited appeals that arrive through the mail, and anyone using a high-pressure approach to secure a donation, and to never reveal any account numbers or personal information, in response to a solicitation. Other consumer tips include: • Never leave receipts at the

counter, or lose them. Receipts for purchases paid with a credit card can contain enough information for a scam artist to run up a huge tab on your credit card or steal your identity.

• When shopping online, print and keep all copies of receipts. Never provide a Social Security number to an online merchant. Purchase items only from secure Web sites.

• Know a store or online merchant’s return policy before purchasing an item.

• Because of legislation enacted in 2004, gift cards or certificates purchased in Rhode Island can no longer expire or lose their value.

However, consumers should carefully examine gift cards especially those purchased on racks accessible to the public, for signs of tampering. A thief can write down a gift card number at a store, replace it on the rack, and wait a few days before calling to see if the card has been activated. The thief can then go shopping online.

“Holiday hassles can be avoided by asking questions and taking steps to protect your personal information,” Lynch said.

Rhode Island consumers with questions, or who are experiencing problems, can contact the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Unit by calling 274-4400.

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