The holidays are just around the corner, and that means many of us will be making purchases online to avoid large crowds and busy mall traffic. While online shopping has made our lives easier, it also exposes new weaknesses with the information we use to make those very purchases.
The holiday season is a productive time for online retailers. Cybercriminals see this as an opportunity to profit as well. In fact, shopping sites rank in the top ten lists for most frequently exploited websites.
An additional concern is bogus e-commerce websites, which are made to look legit but are only built to steal your credit card information. Most of us never even think about checking the online security status of a preferred online vendor—and that’s because nowadays most of us take online security for granted. However, cyber attackers are more sophisticated today than ever before. So be aware of potential fraud efforts.
Here are six steps to help you avoid identity theft while shopping this holiday season:
1. Phishing Schemes
Watch out for phishing schemes which can be disguised as holiday deals. One trick is sending out email ads that ask you to click on phony links or input personal information. Hover your mouse over links to see where they lead before clicking. If you ever doubt the integrity of an email, delete it.
2. Stolen Packages
It’s important not to forget how thieves can get their hands on your personal data in the physical world. With packages hitting doorsteps more frequently during the holiday time of year, make sure your packages — and any personal information they might contain — don’t end up in the hands of thieves. You may want to consider using a delivery locker, or see if you can request delivery during a time when you are available to accept it in person.
3. Proper Security Software
Before you make a purchase online, make sure your security features and software are up-to-date and that your devices are clear of malware and spyware. Security software can shield your devices from harmful viruses found on the web. Be mindful that as more transactions are executed on mobile devices, it’s important to exercise the same caution there that you would on a desktop or laptop computer.
4. Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks
You must be cautious when using open platform public Wi-Fi access. Shopping online while sipping a latte at your local coffee shop might sound enjoyable, but it could cost you. It’s fairly easy for scammers to steal your personal details on a public Wi-Fi connection, so refrain from entering passwords and payment information while using one. Look for what you want to buy with your latte, but wait until you’re at home or able to shop on a secure internet connection. Shop only on secure websites, steering clear of making purchases on sites where you are unsure of security.
5. Frequently Review Bank Statements
Check your credit card and bank statements often, especially those January statements with your holiday purchases, because you cannot let anything slip by you. Take the time to evaluate your statements line by line and promptly report purchases you didn’t make. Better yet, use a credit card that offers zero fraud liability for an extra layer of protection. No charge is too small to scrutinize.
6. Identity Theft Protection Plans
Purchase identity theft protection is always a good option. According to the Federal Trade Commission, purchasing a third-party identity theft protection service that monitors your credit profile for suspicious activity is one way to stay alert to fraudulent accounts opening in your name. If you choose to forgo identity theft protection, it’s important to be vigilant.
If you plan to do any online shopping this year, it’s important to know how to identify a secure online vendor. The best way to protect yourself and others from cyber criminals is to be proactive about the security features available and understand how they work.
Chelsea State Bank offers ID TheftSmart to help protect your identity. CLICK HERE to see which identity theft protection package is right for you and your family and for more information.