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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | post

Big Game Crowds Can Mean More ID Theft Dangers

by Joe Mason on

The NFL's "Super Bowl XLVII": Baltimore, San Francisco, New Orleans. The French Quarter and miles around are jam packed. Sports bars on Game Day will be wall-to-wall fans from San Diego to Boston, and from Miami to Seattle. What all the hoopla and crowds should remind us of is the added dangers of identity theft these kinds of scenes represent.

Of course, it's not just the Big Game. It can be the Indy 500 or Kentucky Derby. It can be a concert or a 4th of July fireworks extravaganza. Any kind of situation where crowds gather poses a heightened danger of identity theft.

Let me repeat something that I have often said — we tend to think of identity theft as a technological, computer or smartphone based threat. But tens of thousands each year lose their personal information the old fashioned way - actual physical theft.

Wall to wall crowds whether on Bourbon Street, Times Square on New Year's Eve or in your local bar showing the big game on multiple flat screens — all these are absolute magnets for pickpockets.

Most people think "this could never happen to me," but huge numbers find out every year that it can happen to them. In a crowded venue you will constantly be jostled and bumped, almost to the point that it becomes superfluous to say "excuse me." After one of those minor collisions you may be dismayed to find your wallet missing or your purse opened and your wallet gone.

By the time you find that you have been robbed, it is likely your credit cards are already being used to rake in merchandise; and depending on what information you were carrying, your bank account may be under attack.

Even after you have cancelled your cards and have limited your losses — or so you think — your identity could be for sale on black market websites, meaning that your problems have actually only begun.

The Identity Theft Resource Center has some very common sense suggestions to help you ward off picket pockets in a crowd:

"Make it difficult for a thief to access your information. Only carry the credit cards you need for that day. Unzipped purses, backpacks or open bags are open invitations to pickpockets. If carrying a purse, loop the strap over your shoulder and have the clasp-side of the purse against the FRONT of your body. A fanny pack, while not a fashion statement, is a safer way to carry a wallet. Shop with a friend. Together you can watch each other's belongings more carefully. If possible, leave the children at home."

Then there is "shoulder surfing." You are buying things in crowded situations and the person standing next to you, or in back of you, might be taking a very active interest in the personal information you are giving to make that purchase. For instance, you may be making some kind of purchase on your cell phone not realizing that prying ears may be listening intently to the Social Security number or credit card number you are giving.

Here's a simple rule that people too often ignore: Don't share your credit card numbers or Social Security number in an open, public environment.

Back to the Big Game: Whether you are at the event, or just enjoying it as part of a crowd in a restaurant or bar, just realize there is an added danger and that you can easily take simple steps to help protect your personal information.

Have fun watching, and I hope your team wins.