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Minnesota Commerce Department offers tips to avoid identity theft this holiday season

12/15/2015 10:19:27 AM

With the holiday shopping season underway, the Minnesota Commerce Department reminds Minnesotans to secure their personal financial information from identity thieves.

"Holiday spending increases the chances that hackers will find their way into Minnesotans' wallets," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. "The good news is that shoppers can take some basic precautions to safeguard their personal financial information, both online and in stores."

Rothman offers the following tips to help consumers protect themselves against identity theft:

Opt for credit instead of debit. 

Under federal law, your liability for unauthorized use of your credit card tops out at $50. If you report the loss of your credit card before someone else uses it, you are not responsible for any charges you didn’t authorize. If your credit card number is stolen, but not the card, you are not liable for unauthorized use.

With a debit card, the thief would have access to the actual money in your account. If you report your debit card missing before someone uses it, federal law says you are not responsible for any unauthorized transactions. If someone uses your debit card before you report it lost or stolen, your liability depends on how quickly you report it. You could potentially lose a lot or all the money in your account.

Keep track of your spending. 

Promptly open and review your monthly account statements. Even better, especially during the holiday season, regularly check your accounts online and confirm all recent transactions.

Contact your bank or credit card company right away if you notice any suspicious purchases or withdrawals.

Be picky where you click.

When shopping online, verify that the checkout is secure (verify that the website address starts with "https"). Fraudsters will also try to lure you with email promotions that look like they may be from your favorite stores. Don't be fooled by a deal that sounds too good to be true.  

It is always better to go directly to the store’s website rather than clicking on a link in an email that may actually take you to a fake online storefront. 

The Commerce Department website offers advice on preventing identity theft and how to recover if you have been a victim of identity theft.

Commerce is here to help

If you believe you may have been the victim of a scam or fraud, contact the Commerce Department’s Consumer Services Center by email at consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602 (Greater Minnesota).

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