It’s Christmas.
The tree is empty.
But your family doesn’t know.
Your children race down the stairs, followed by their mother and the dog.
Their excitement melts into confusion. “Did Santa forget about us?”
asks your daughter.
You look to your wife. Her gaze is cold. “No, honey,” you say. “A really bad elf stole Daddy’s identity, so he couldn’t
buy your presents.”
“Buy presents?” your son exclaims. “Santa isn’t real?!”
The children burst into tears.
“Thanks a lot, Earl,” your wife hisses. Defeated, you reach to pet the dog. He doesn’t want to be bothered.
One year later:
Trembling from the cold and snow, you approach your former home.
You hear laughter.
Peeking through the window, warmth radiates from the fireplace. Flames illuminate your beloved wife, children, and dog. They gaze admirably up at a man next to a mountain of gifts.
It’s Greg. Greg was your neighbor. You let Greg borrow a screwdriver once.
Greg is taller than you and
has a lot more hair.
“I love our new daddy!”
exclaims your daughter.
“Earl got hacked and ruined our credit score. We have no savings, so I’ll probably never go to college. But at least I have you!” chimes your son.
They hug Greg.
Greg never gave back that screwdriver, and he has no plans of giving back your family.
You weep.

We’ve poked fun out of a serious issue. However, we realize identity theft is real and it happens far too often. Read LifeLock’s tips for safe holiday shopping online:

1. Only shop websites you trust. If you’re unsure, search the Better Business Bureau.

2. Be suspicious of dirt-cheap prices, especially on Cyber Monday. It’s probably too good to be true.

3. Information can be intercepted on public wifi. Instead, encrypt your connection by using a virtual private network (VPN) before signing onto any network.

4. Use long, complex passwords that combine upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

5. Pages that ask for data should begin with “https” and have a padlock icon at the end of the address bar. These pages are equipped with privacy protections that mask your information.

6. No retail site needs a social security number.

7. Use credit instead of debit. Should fraud occur, you won’t be liable while the card company investigates.

8. Monitor credit card statements.

9. Don’t click spam emails or emails from unknown senders, even if there’s an offer inside.

10.Keep receipts and order confirmations. If you don’t receive your purchases, contact customer service, and file a report with your credit card company if they’re unhelpful. You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

While theft increases during the holiday season, it can happen at any time. If you make safe practices an all-year habit, holiday shopping will be much safer.