published Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Phillips: Guard your data, Web links to avoid ID theft

by Ellen Phillips

To continue with “guarding” secrets via protecting your identity from those ever-present ID thieves, we sometimes don’t think it’s vital we do so while shopping.

Shop-Smart, an arm of Consumer Reports, tells us to think hard before entering both an online and a traditional store. For example:

  1. It goes without saying to install security software on your computer and to keep it updated automatically. ShopSmart’s top-of-the-list is Avira’s AntiVir Personal; plus, it’s free.

  2. Never shop using public wireless connections. You could mistakenly connect to a Wi-Fi crook who’s just sitting waiting to pounce on your personal information.

  3. Obviously, avoid email scams. As I’ve advised 60 gazillion times, keep any and all personal info just that — private and personal. No legitimate retailer will ask.

  4. Make sure the website you’re doing business with is repu-

table. If you’re unfamiliar and still want a purchase, research the company by searching for complaints and also checking the for any past or present problems. Always pay with a credit card to get the most legal security.

  1. Remove any “secret” ID from your wallet before getting in the car to travel to the mall. This includes your Social Security card (which you shouldn’t be carrying around anyway). Take only the credit cards you’ll need to make your purchases.

  2. Speaking of your Social Security number, it goes without saying to never disclose it or any other personal info unless you initiate the deal.

  3. To avoid skimming (about which I’ve written in the past), keep an eagle eye on your cards. Too many sales clerks, waiters, gas station attendants, and the like who disappear with your card to make the transaction may use a handheld card reader that copies your info that’s on the magnetic strip. If this happens, then look out, Baby. The sky’s the limit so far as Carly Crook is concerned!

Tax tip: The standard mileage allowance for business driving was 55.5 cents per mile for the final six months of 2011 but only 51 cents for the first six months.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

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