July 12, 2014

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Staying Safe When Shopping for Deals

Summer is a popular time for moving and a great time to find deals at neighborhood yard sales, on eBay, or Craigslist. If you’re getting ready to hold a pre-move yard sale, or maybe just in the mood for some summer deal shopping, here’s how to stay safe from identity thieves who might be on the prowl.

“Wipe” Your Devices and Hard Drives Clean

Think carefully before selling your outdated technology; old hard drives, computers, copiers/printers/scanners with hard drives, smartphones, etc. Just think of the abundance of personally identifiable information you might have stored on these devices. Your social security number, your insurance policy number, your tax return, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, passwords––need I go on?

If you do decide to sell, make sure your hard drives and computers are “wiped” before selling or disposing of them. If you don’t know how to do this, consult with an expert or an experienced, tech-savvy family member for help cleaning your cast-offs.

DVDs, CDs, and flash drives should be destroyed before disposing of them. Never just toss these into your trash or recycling.

Smartphones should be backed up and then set to the default or “factory restore” setting to wipe them clean. To be extra safe you can actually destroy the phone’s memory chip.

Clicking, and Bidding, and Buying––Oh My!

Craigslist is built upon the philosophy that a local community is the safest community. This supposedly cuts random people out of a Craigslist transaction.

While I appreciate the spirit of this philosophy, for me, it doesn’t translate to safety. I’m highly suspicious of a lot of what I see on Craigslist, and on eBay for that matter. At least with eBay you get the chance to see the seller’s ratings from past customers, but even that doesn’t always get me over the hump and get me to click on buy or bid now.

Buyer Beware

The bottom line is never, ever send or wire money to anyone on these sites. And, if you are purchasing a big ticket item like a car or boat, make sure you go see the actual item for sale.

If you are renting a home or office, make sure you can tour the property and ask for at least three references from past tenants. Call them and ask lots of questions about the landlord and their experience dealing with him or her.

Craigslist does not offer any sort of buyer protection, but relies on the community to alert them of suspicious posts or activity on the site. If you see something that feels fishy, report it. It will help keep your neighbors safe and hopefully make the community safer for you the next time you venture into the virtual flea market realm.

Never share your financial information, social security number, or home address with a Craigslist seller. Remember, if someone gets their hands on your personal information, they could drain your bank account, open credit card accounts in your name and spend in your name, or even file a tax return in your name and get the refund fraudulently. When in doubt, trust your instincts and just walk away. No deal is worth your safety.

Protect What Matters Most

It’s important that you take identity theft seriously and maintain the proper precautions to protect yourself and your family. So don’t forget to check your credit card statements regularly for suspicious activity, and think about adding another layer of protection by enrolling in IdentityForce’s UltraSecure+Credit. Your personal information, including your credit, will be monitored 24/7, and you’ll be notified immediately of any suspicious activity so you can act before any damage is done. If anything does happen, IdentityForce will be with you every step of the way helping you restore your identity.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Karen.

Heidi Daitch

Chief Strategy Officer at IdentityForce
Heidi is a busy working mom who juggles many of the same responsibilities and challenges at home and at work - a long list of things to do and not enough time to do everything. With so little time, Heidi tries hard to find simple, but effective strategies to save time for what’s really important – spending time with her family.

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