Oklahoma holiday spenders get warning

Tuesday, November 23rd 2004, 1:36 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ As the Christmas shopping season gets into full swing, Oklahoma consumers are being warned to slow down during the holiday rush and take steps to protect themselves from financial crime.

``The day after Thanksgiving is generally one of the biggest shopping days of the year,'' Attorney General Edmondson said Tuesday. ``We are asking people to be careful with their personal information and not fall victim to the crook that would steal Christmas.''

Edmondson said shoppers should be especially wary of the potential for identity theft during the holiday season.

``Often people are in such a hurry to make the next purchase or avoid the next line that they become careless with their personal information while they are shopping,'' the state official said. ``By being aware of your surroundings, most of these crimes can be avoided.''

Edmondson had a list of tips for consumers wanting to avoid becoming a crime victim:

_ Keep all receipts and compare them with credit card and bank statements. If the receipts don't match the statements, report the problem immediately.

_ Be wary of anyone looking over your shoulder. If a store clerk asks for your Social Security number on a check, take steps to ensure those behind you can't see the number. Ask if you can use your driver's license number instead of your Social Security number. Consider having your driver's license number changed, if it is the same as your Social Security number.

_ Do not leave purchases in plain sight of an unattended vehicle. Put them in a trunk and lock the car. Don't leave purchases, wallets or money in a vehicle.

_ Destroy documents containing personal information, including expired credit cards and preapproved credit card applications.

_ Do not keep Personal Identity Numbers (PINs) in your wallet or purse. Put those numbers in a safe place in your home, hidden from burglars.

_ Leave extra credit cards, Social Security cards, birth certificates and passports at home in a safe place unless you are going to use them.

_ If you send personal information over the Internet, make sure it is with a legitimate and reputable company using a secure line.

``Consumers who have become victims of identity theft should contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT,'' Edmondson said. ``They should also immediately file a police report with the local police departments. By taking quick action, consumers can ensure themselves the quickest possible recovery.''