By Sheriff Scott Henriod WPCSO

This week’s Sheriff’s Corner I would like to take the opportunity to share a few ideas I found on line about keeping your identity safe this holiday season. As you prepare or have already started your shopping experience always remember to safe guard your identity. Here are a few of those ideas.

1. Be aware. During the hustle and bustle of the holidays remain aware of your surroundings and your belongings. About 43% of identity theft cases involve a lost or stolen wallet, checkbook, computer or phone. Never leave your purse, wallet, laptop or smart phone unattended while in a public place.

2. Limit access. Do not use your debit card to purchase holiday gifts. Debit cards are more risky because you’re using your own money and providing direct access into your checking account. Consider using gift cards or single-use credit cards to pay for all of your holiday purchases.

3. Secure your connection. If you plan to shop for a few gifts while waiting for a friend at a coffee shop or before boarding your plane at the airport, make sure you’re using secure Wi-Fi instead of public wireless access. Before you use your mobile phone for online shopping, be sure to have a password lock on your phone and update it with the latest security software and manufacturer updates

4. Go direct. You might receive emails that display amazing deals at websites of stores you typically shop at, but don’t click on the link in the email. Instead, go directly to the store’s website. Identity thieves may create clones of store websites and use an email to bring unaware online shoppers to the fake site so they can steal personal information if the person buys anything.

5. Guard your information. If you’re using your personal computer for holiday shopping, use firewalls, antivirus and anti-spyware. Keep your computer up to date with the latest security updates, encrypt emails and computer files that contain personal or account information and always use strong passwords

6. Shred it. This is a good habit to form during the holidays and then practice year-round to avoid identity theft. Shred everything with your name and address on it, and especially anything with your social security number and bank information, before throwing it in the trash. This includes receipts, return address stickers, envelopes and catalogs. Even more important, be sure to shred pre-approved credit offers, credit card checks and insurance-related materials to keep your personal information out of potentially dangerous hands.