DURHAM, NC — No organization publishes comprehensive information about how many people have their personal information stolen each year, though some estimates place the number at more than 8 million in the United States alone. With the holiday season in full swing and the economy taking a turn for the worse, identity theft is expecting to increase this year.

“ID theft is obviously a threat any time of the year,” said Gail Cunningham of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to the Poughkeepsie Journal. “But particularly during the holidays, thieves and crooks come out from under their rocks to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers.”

With the risk of identity theft in mind, it is smart to take a few basic precautions this holiday season, many experts say. A few tips to remember:

  • When shopping online, look for symbols that denote the website is using SSL security technology, that your browser displays a padlock symbol in the bottom of the window or in the URL address bar. Also, look for other symbols that denote a trustworthy site like TRUSTe, Verisign, The Better Business Bureau, and McAfee Secure.
  • Make sure your credit cards are safe in one place and that you always know where they are.
  • Keep your receipts in a safe place. Leaving them in your car or on your desk can give thieves access to information that can be helpful to thieves. Send them to Shoeboxed for safe keeping.
  • Be wary this busy holiday season of people peering over your shoulder at crowded checkouts when you enter in your PIN for your debit cards. Using a busy aisle as an excuse to get close, they may be trying to steal your PIN.