PORTLAND Identity theft always goes up during the holidays, but authorities said there are key steps people can take to protect themselves.

Officer Mike Rowe with the Beaverton Police Department said shoppers should be extra cautious about their own security since credit cards and debit cards are used more frequently during the holidays.

He shared the following tips:

  • Keep sensitive documents in a safe place: Do not carry social security cards, birth certificates, passports, or extra credit cards in your purse or wallet unless absolutely necessary.
  • Watch over your personal items: Never leave your purse or wallet unattended for even a moment. Remove valuables (laptops, purses, cell phones, etc.) from your vehicles.
  • Secure personal mail: Deposit outgoing mail at the post office instead of an unsecure mailbox.
  • When in doubt, shred it: Use a shredder to destroy unused documents which contain any of your personal information (bank statements, credit card bills, old insurance forms, etc.)
  • Guard your Social Security number and personal information: Your Social Security number is the primary target for identity thieves. Do not write your Social Security number on your checks. Be skeptical of solicitations that ask for your personal information.
  • Limit the number of credit cards you have and monitor your financial statements: Cancel any inactive accounts. Even if you don't use them, these accounts appear on your credit report, which can be used by thieves.

Rowe also said it's good advice to order a copy of your credit report at least once a year. A free annual copy of your credit report can be ordered by telephone (877) 322-8228 or through the Annual Credit Report website.

if you suspect somebody has stolen your identity, you should close any accounts that have been tampered with, including banking and credit cards. Also, call this non-emergency police phone number: (503) 629-0111 and place a fraud alert on your credit reports through these agencies:

Equifax: (888) 766-0008

Experian: (888) 397-3742

TransUnion: (800) 680-7289

Another valuable resource is the Federal Trade Commission (877) 438-4338.

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