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On The First Day Of Christmas . . . Protect Yourself From Fraud And Email Scams

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Christmas is a time when we splash out on family and friends for that extra special gift. When your credit card statement arrives in the New Year you don't want to find that a thief has used your identity to buy their own special gifts.

Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge to obtain credit or purchase goods or services. With advances in technology criminals will use a variety of methods.

By taking some simple steps you can reduce the chance of becoming a victim of identity fraud.

General tips Take time to shred all documentation containing personal information, especially bank and credit card statements and old bills. Make sure you have password access codes on computers that are changed regularly are not easily figured out like phone numbers or car registrations. Be very careful who you give personal information to, especially over the phone or internet. Secure your letterbox so no-one can get access to your mail. Only carry in your wallet, cards and ID that you actually need with you. Keep track of transactions and regularly check statements to make sure there are no anomalies or unauthorised transactions. If there are, contact your bank or credit card company immediately.

Using cheques Keep your cheques separate from anything containing your signature and never pre-sign cheques. Cross cheques with the words 'not transferable'. Regularly look through your chequebook to make sure that no cheques are missing.

Credit cards and Eftpos Keep cards safe and immediately tell your bank, or credit card company, if they are stolen or missing. Choose your PIN carefully, have different PINs for each card and try to memorise them. If you have to write them down make sure it is not in the same place as your cards. Never give your PIN to anyone and make sure no-one can see you entering you pin at a bank machine or shop transaction. Destroy old cards and sign news ones as soon as you receive them. If you move house make sure you inform you bank and credit card company.

Internet shopping Invest in a security and virus software package for your computer and password protect documents containing personal information. If purchasing goods over the internet always make sure that you are making payments or providing personal details in a secure area. You will usually be alerted when entering a secure area or you will require a password. A small gold padlock symbol along the bottom of your screen or next to the address bar also tells you that you are in a secure area. Check out the company you are trading with. Make sure they have a physical address and contact details and you keep a record of transactions with time, dates and order numbers. Don't use computers that are accessible to the public to make your transactions.

Email and postal scams Spam is the generic term for 'junk mail' messages via phones or email that you haven't requested. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. If you receive an email or letter suggesting you are a winner and to claim the prize you need to provide personal information or advanced fees, the chances are it is a scam. Some emails circulate with pleas for help in accessing a large sum of money from which you will benefit. Others will pull on the heart strings with a medical emergency you can help with. These are scams. Some criminals will masquerade as trustworthy organisations, sometimes even using the logos of banks, financial institutions and companies to obtain sensitive information. This is known as phishing. Remember - if you are not expecting it, and it is asking for personal data or bank account details it is probably a scam.

Useful links www.police.govt.nz/safety/home-identity-crime/html www.ns.org.nz (Click on Fact Sheets in the left-hand menu) www.ahtcc.gov.au (Australia) www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz/scamwatch

This advice forms part of the '12 Crime of Christmas' campaign by Central District Police who wish you a very merry and safe Christmas and New Year.

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