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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

Watch Out for Fake St. Patrick’s Day Greetings

Most identity thieves never take a day off. For some criminals, stealing identities from unsuspecting victims is a full-time job, and business is never better than on holidays like St. Patrick's Day when the general public tends to have its guard down. Whether thieves are out in bars on the lookout for unattended credit cards or sitting at a computer hacking into personal online accounts, most criminals are busier than ever while others are out celebrating.

There are many places where you may come across a criminal looking to steal your personal information. The Internet, for example, is swimming with thieves who are waiting for potential victims to take a misstep that makes them vulnerable to identity theft. One popular way this happens is through email fraud.

Not all emails are friendly
During the holidays, you have likely received messages from friends, coworkers or family members that are either greeting cards or jokes related to the festivities. If you receive an email leading up to St. Patrick's Day with a subject pertaining to the holiday, be wary about opening it — especially if it is from an address that you don't immediately recognize.

Hackers will send out mass emails that are really viruses disguised as holiday related messages. Once one of these messages are opened, a virus could potentially attack your hard drive and steal any information you have stored on there. If you keep copies of important documents that contain your bank account or Social Security number, a thief could use this information to open up accounts or take out loans in your name. After this, they could run up substantial debt, damage your credit score and leave you with the bill.

Be sure to screen your inbox
Many of these viruses are actually designed to attack your address book as well, sending everyone you communicate with the same message that exposed your computer to begin with. The recipients may recognize your address and not think twice about opening it, making them vulnerable to identity theft as well.

Even if you do know who is sending you a St. Patrick's Day message, be wary about opening it as it could end in your credit report being riddled with fraudulent purchases. Make sure to update your computer with the latest virus protection software to combat any potential threats that come your way. Also, invest in a credit monitoring program to keep a watchful eye over the activity taking place in your name.